Marikana activist Napolean Webster who has now spent 50 days in jail, without bail

In The News South Africa

Arrested Marikana activist blames Lonmin

Weekly Xposé Reporter

  • Webster says Lonmin keeps houses scarce so that the community fights, which deflects attention away from them failing the miners

Accused No 6 entered the Bafokeng Magistrate’s Court in Rustenburg on Monday, January 16, 2017, his white shirt splattered with blood. It is alleged that this is the “handiwork”’ of police officers during his arrest on Friday, January 6, 2017.

Napolean Webster is Accused No 6 in the case of a mob murder of a man in Marikana on December 8, 2016, following clashes over occupation of RDP housing. In a note written from his police cell, and which we have in our possession, Webster writes: “This matter is very political. I blame Lonmin for creating a housing scarcity so that the community can fight and they can avoid attention of complying with the Mining Charter.”

Napolean Webster

Webster has disclosed that questioning during his interrogation while in prison has centered exclusively around his community involvement, and not the murder itself. Webster remains resolute about his innocence. Today Webster’s legal defense presented key evidence and several witnesses showing that Webster was running a full-day educational programme on the day of the murder. The bail hearing has been postponed to Monday morning.

Marikana Community members and supporters protest outside court against arrest of Napolean Webster. Pictures: Nigel Branken

Webster believes he is being targeted because of his very vocal and uncompromising fight for justice for the families of 34 mineworkers killed in the 2012 Marikana massacre, and that it appears as if there is a deliberate strategy to mute his activism.

In 2014, during the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, it was Webster who interrupted the cross-examination of Deputy President and former Director of Lomin, Cyril Ramaphosa with shouts of “blood on his hands”, causing a chorus on insults against Ramaphosa, who was directly implicated in the massacre but cleared by the Farlam Commision. Webster has been particularly vocal in calling out Lonmin for what he calls a failure to comply with Mining Charter obligations in terms of housing for Marikana miners.  Napolean says “Lonmin owes the Marikana community 6 000 houses and should not use the government as security guards. We are being punished for the houses”.

Webster believes that the housing shortage and appalling living conditions are contributing to community tensions in Marikana. Lonmin claims that it has met its Mining Charter obligations, pointing to the conversion of employee hostels into single and family units. However, just recently President Zuma reprimanded Lonmin harshly on the slow pace of delivery in addressing the living and housing conditions of mineworkers.

Over the past few months Webster has also spoken out against Tharisa Mine, which is owned and operated by Tharisa, a European-headquartered integrated resource group. Webster accuses the mine, which is 2km from Marikana, of relocating people, destroying their houses and placing them in shacks without electricity or access to safe water. Webster has also expressed concern that former North West Deputy Police Commissioner William Mpempe, at the time of the Marikana murders, is currently working for Tharisa mine as a security officer.

Webster says: “It is painful to see the Hawks now being used to defend the ANC well through Mpempe, the former police commissioner of North West. Cyril Ramaphosa must be smiling since he was the commander of the black murderer.”

Court proceedings this week have been marked by delays, high security and seen a new magistrate take the bench. Social worker Nigel Branken, who has been in court this week in support of Webster, spoke of a whole TRT unit of armed policemen with full-body armour and R5 weapons in and around the court.  Branken said: “Napolean is courageous and never backs down from what is right. I have visited him a few times in his home in Marikana where he has taken up the struggle for this community. We have spent a few early mornings on the koppie where the massacre took place, and have even taken our sons there to pray and reflect about the South Africa we dream of.”

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