PRETORIA, December 5 – A group of about 20 community activists from the mining town of Marikana, near Rustenburg, arrived at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Wednesday afternoon, after covering a distance of 80 kilometres on foot.
The group, led by community rights activist Napoleon Webster was escorted by the South African Police Service and the Tshwane Metro Police as it marched to the lawns area of the Union Buildings.
“Our walk which started in Marikana was for us to come and ask Mr President [Cyril Ramaphosa] to demonstrate integrity and remorse by honouring the Marikana widows with shareholding [at the mine in Marikana]…He has eight percent. We want him to return the favour to the widows,” Webster said.
In August 2012, workers at Lommin Platinum Mine’s Marikana plant staged a massive protest, demanding a pay increase to R12,500. Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police on August 16, 2012. Over 70 people were wounded and over 200 were arrested.
Ten other people, including police officers and Lommin security guards were killed the previous week.
At the time, Ramaphosa was a non-executive director of Lonmin. His company Shanduka was a minority shareholder in Lonmin.
Webster said the community’s long walk was a demonstration that “we are willing to go through pain, enduring the pain and sacrifice” to get their message to Ramaphosa and the government. Webster said the community wanted Ramaphosa to apologise for his intervention during the strike, and to ensure that the widows were adequately compensated.
“We are not sophisticated people. We came in walking. Because he failed to come, we have brought ourselves here so that perhaps he can take these issues serious. We want economic empowerment,” he said.
The group of 20 activists included three women who felt they needed to convey their grievances to Ramaphosa.
“We have three women who were walking with us and also facilitation food. It was very difficult. At some stage we had to eat potatoes, with no soup, nothing. We were drinking tap water but because this is our life, it was not painful. It was normal. We had to brave the North West [province] sun. At some stage the weather was about 43 [Celsius] degrees,” said Webster.
“We have a memorandum that we want to give to the president. We hope he brings himself here. We hope he will value our sacrifice of walking for three days to see him. We hope he can take that into account.”
He said the Marikana residents will return to Union Buildings after 21 days to get answers.
Two officials, Vincent Ngcobo and Shonisani Mudau from the Presidency received the memorandum. (ANA)