MARIKANA, August 15 – Marikana will forever be infamous for the fatal shooting of 34 striking mineworkers by heavily armed policeman that took place on 16 August 2012.
As may as 78 others were wounded on that fateful day, which will be commemorated on Thursday. The day marked one of the darkest days in post-apartheid South Africa.
Six years ago mineworkers at Lonmin mine in Marikana, near Rustennburg in the North West province, went on a week-long wildcat strike to press for wage hikes. They were demanding R12,500 as a minimum monthly salary. At the time most miners were earning about R4,000.
As tensions, further stoked by union rivalry, rose, so too did the levels of violence. Ten people – six mineworkers, two Lonmin security officers and two policemen – were killed in days leading up to what was to be known as the “Marikana Massacre”.
In the aftermath, some 275 locals were arrested and brought before the courts.
The annual commemoration of the massacre will again be held near the koppie (small outcrop) at Nkaneng informal settlement in Marikana. There will be mixed emotions and reactions.
Last year, Amnesty International lamented that no one has been held responsible for the killings in Marikana.
The rights body called on the South African authorities to ensure that those suspected of criminal responsibility in relation to the 2012 killings were brought to trial and that the victims and their families receive reparations, including adequate compensation.
The same year in March, police watchdog, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), identified 72 police officers for prosecution in relation to their roles in the events at Marikana.
Years on, the situation in Marikana remains volatile, as evidenced during the murder trial of eight Marikana men convicted of killing Sabata Petros Chale in December 2016.
Chale was hacked to death by a group of about 200 men in a dispute over the allocation of low-cost housing (RDP) at Marikana’s Phase Two project, also known as Khabangena.
“Marikana is a volatile area since the massacre in 2012, there is a political conflict between the Economic Freedom Fighters and the African National Congress,” defence lawyer Eric Marx told the court in mitigation of sentence at the trial.
Judge Ronnie Hendricks sentenced Aubrey Seitsang, 39, Sibonile Sobopha, 32, Herbert Baqhesi, 36, William Nyenyane, 33, Samson Gqwetani, 42, Gift Luveli, 39, Luvo Soyizwaphi, 32, and Mzolisi Mbulana, 48, to 20 years imprisonment each for the killing of the 39-year-old Chale.
The blood has rarely stopped flowing and Marikana remains a source of division and tension, as well as a flurry of court cases stemming from the traumatic events of August 2012.
Mineworkers at Sibanye operations in nearby Kroondal indicated that they would not be part of the Marikana commemoration and instead will go to work. They claim union leaders have neglected them, instead focusing only on workers at Lonmin in Marikana and Impala mines.
“We will be at work, [Joseph] Mathunjwa knew people in Marikana and Impala …” said one woman, employed at Kroondal, referring to the leader of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).
The commemoration also comes at a time when eight policemen and a group of mineworkers are appearing in various courts for incidents leading up to the August 16 killings.
Former North West deputy provincial commission Major-General William Mpembe and eight other policemen are appearing in court on 15 counts relating to incidents before August 16. The senior police officer and his lieutenants were arrested in March this year and released on bail, and are expected to appear in the North West High Court on September 14.
Mpembe, 55, is accused of the murder of Semi Jokanisi, Tembelakhe Mati, Warrant Officer Hendrik Tsietsi Monene and Warrant Officer Sello Ronnie Lepaauku. He is also accused of the attempted murder of Zolile Honxo, Zwelitsha Mtshenwa, Muziwanele Mxinwa, Mzoxolo Zukulu, Sibongiseni Miya on August 13, 2012, in Marikana.
He is further charged alongside retired Colonel Salmon Johannes Vermaak, 53, Constable Nkosana Mguye, 38, Warrant Officer Masilo Mogale, 49, Warrant Officer Katlego Joseph Sekgweleya, 39, and Khazamola Phillip Makhubela, 49, for the murder of Pumzile Sokhanyile.
Mpembe further faces other charges of defeating the ends of justice, contravention of the Ipid Act, as well as contravention of the Commission Act.
Vermaak also faces charges of defeating the ends of justice and contravention of the Commission Act. In this case he is charged alongside Gideon van Zyl, Dingaan Madoda and Oupa Pule. Van Zyl, Madoda and Pule are accused of defeating the end of justice and contravention of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate Act. They allegedly failed to disclosed that mineworker Modisaotsile van Wyk Sagalala died in custody while being transported to Lonmin premises on August 16, 2012.
On the other hand, Anele Zonke, Xolani Nzuzu, Simphiwe Booi, Khanyile Kanyise, Mzoxolo Magidiwana, Samekelo Mkhize, Amanda Nogwaza, Thobile Tyobeni, Mzukisi Soyini, Bongile Mpotye, Zamikhaya Ndude, Sithembele Sohadi, Loyiso Mtsheketshe, Zolile Honxo, Zwelitsha Mtshena, Mziwanele Mxinwa and Mzoxolo Zukulu are facing 26 counts, ranging from murder, to attempted murder, malicious damage to property, robbery, unlawful possession of firearm as well as unlawful possession of ammunition.
Their case was postponed to February 4, 2019, pending an application they made at the High Court in Pretoria to review former National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams’ decision to prosecute them.
Nineteen mineworkers were initially arrested but Majeke Nonkonyana and Dlunga Tholakele have since died.
The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa said most of the recommendations that came out of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry which was set up to investigate the events in Marikana, have still to be acted upon, and investigations into politicians implicated in the tragedy seem to have been stonewalled.
“Compensation for the families has partially been agreed. The state is digging in its heels regarding claims relating to general and constitutional damages which include emotional shock, grief and the loss of family life,” the economic rights body said.
“he injured and arrested have not yet been offered compensation that they feel is acceptable for wrongful arrest, incarceration and injury.”
On Thursday, the eyes of South Africa will again be drawn to the tiny town in South Africa’s mining belt which on an August day in 2012, sprung from obscurity to make world headlines. (ANA)