In a Freedom Day statement, high profile Marikana activist, Napoleon Webster has said “it is Freedom Day for Cyril Ramaphosa who is now being clothed in respectability”.
The Deputy President of the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa, is planning to visit the Marikana community ahead of the ANC elective conference in December, in an attempt to neutralize opposition against him in the North-West Province. This is according to Marikana activist, Napoleon Webster, who has been an outspoken critic of Ramaphosa’s involvement in the Lonmin Marikana Massacre, in August 2012. Ramaphosa was a non-executive director of Lonmin at the time of the massacre where police killed 34 mineworkers at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mines. While the Farlam Commission of Inquiry cleared Ramaphosa of blame, Webster disagrees “Ramaphosa has blood on his hands, not only for the massacre itself, but for the ongoing community tensions and poverty which is a direct result of Lonmin not fulfilling its social obligations on housing”. It is something that Webster feels that media has failed to report on “The media is protecting Ramaphosa and Lonmin. They must come and see for themselves the terrible conditions in Marikana which is the result of the greed of these mining companies and those involved, such as Ramaphosa. Our people are suffering and so many years after the Marikana massacre there is still no justice”.
Webster has consistently expressed outrage about the terrible living conditions in Marikana which he believes is fueling community tensions. “Lonmin has not honoured its commitments regarding the living conditions of mineworkers and the local community as set out in their Social Labour Plan”, Webster says “furthermore, mining company, Tharisa Mine, which works closely with Lonmin has displaced a section of the Marikana community for them to conduct mining operations, yet media does not report on such. We are truly the forgotten people of Marikana”.
Webster says Ramaphosa has been planning a visit to Marikana for many months, and has been in consultation with politicians and organisations to facilitate this visit. Webster says he was informed of this proposed visit by a community member, and warned to be careful. A week later Webster was arrested for his alleged involvement in the mob murder of a 39-year-old man Sabata Petros Chale in Marikana West on 9th December 2016, after a dispute over the allocation of RDP houses. Several of the other accused are mineworkers who were involved in the strike for a living wage of R12 500 at Lonmin in 2012, which resulted in the Marikana Massacre in August of that year. Evidence has been presented in court illustrating that Webster was nowhere near the scene of the murder at the time.
“My arrest is one hundred percent political. I believe Ramaphosa wants me out of the way so that his visit proceeds without protest. But he does not realise that the community will never welcome him, we know that his visit is not about caring for the community but for political reasons. He has no regard for the people of Marikana, he only cares about being President”
Social worker and member of the Marikana Support Campaign, Nigel Branken described the murder charge as “trumped up and politically motivated’, aimed at silencing activism around the lack of implementation of the Social Labour Plan by Lonmin and Government and deplorable conditions for miners in Marikana”.
Webster also told us that “I will not be silenced even if I am in prison. My freedom has been taken away but not my voice”. Webster will spend his 111th day in prison, without bail this Freedom Day. In a Freedom Day statement released by Webster earlier today he says “The more there is injustice, the louder the need to speak the truth becomes inside me and I have to speak it”.
Webster says “it is certainly not yet uhuru for those who lost their fathers, brothers and sons in the Lonmin masscare in Marikana. It is not yet uhuru for those who survived it….not a single police or higher official has been tried, never mind arrested and detained unjustly without bail for more than a hundred days like I have”.
Webster is adamant that his voice will not be silenced on Marikana, even if he is behind bars. The Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) has joined the struggle for the release of Webster and will provide pro-bono legal assistance. SERI assisted the families of the deceased at the Lonmin Marikana Massacre in August 2012.
Bishop Jo Seoka visited Webster in prison last week and said “Napoleon is one of those people who have devoted their lives to helping others with matters of social justice”. He is not afraid to stand up and speak truth to power. The Bishop said, “I sat with Napoleon on Thursday, his 104th day in jail knowing he is an innocent man and that the police have not done their job investigating this crime”. The Bishop will be writing a letter to the National Director of Public Prosecutions to ask that he inspects Napoleon’s arrest and incarceration.
-Reporting by Kim Heller