Families of slain Marikana miners continue the fight for justice

The families of the 34 striking miners, killed by South African police in the country’s biggest massacre since Sharpeville, will take legal action against platinum mining giant Lonmin, South Africa’s deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and former police minister Nathi Mthethwa, the Marikana Support Campaign (MSC) has said.

“The families are consulting with their lawyers to make a final determination but there will definitely be a civil and private prosecution,” said filmmaker Rehad Desai, director of the acclaimed documentary Miners Shot Down and a member of MSC.

The announcement was swiftly followed by news that the Economic Freedom Fighters, the political party founded by former ANC stalwart Julius Malema, has opened criminal cases against the aforementioned, as well as the former Minister of Mining Susan Shabangu, National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega and the now-retired North West Provincial Police Commissioner, Zukiswa Mbombo.

The charges range from conspiracy to commit murder, to attempted murder and murder.

On 16 August 2012 34 miners were shot dead by security forces in Marikana, near the town of Rustenburg while striking for a living wage of 12,500 rand (approximately US$1500).

A further 10 men were killed that month during violence surrounding the strike, including three by police.

More than 70 others were injured and countless miners were arrested.

Cyril Ramaphosa was a director and a major shareholder at Lonmin at the time, while Nathi Mthethwa was the Minister of Police.

The MSC announcement followed the long-awaited conclusion of the Farlam Commission, a two-year inquiry into the massacre.

Families of the slain miners were bitterly disappointed by both its conduct and outcomes, least of all because they had been promised at least 48 hours prior notice to the release of the report, which they were not granted.

Crucially, the report concluded that “it would have been impossible to disarm and disperse the strikers without significant bloodshed,” thus exonerating Lonmin and those at the top at the chain of command from any responsibility for the carnage.

Although the Commission recommended a criminal investigation to see if any individual police officers could be held responsible for the deaths, MSC charged that “the overall tone of the report heavily leans towards a vilification of the strikers.”

MSC has also stated that the miners’ families will also lodge a defamation case against President Jacob Zuma for his comments that the miners were killed to prevent even more deaths.


Travesty of justice

MSC further described the report as highly disappointing and “a travesty of so-called justice processes in South Africa” with conclusions that contradicted the available evidence.

“Having a commission of inquiry was a shoddy compromise in that there was a strong case against all those who were involved including Nathi Mthethwa, Cyril Ramaphosa, Susan Shabangu and Lonmin officials,” Desai told Equal Times.

Jim Nichol, a London-based lawyer who represented some of the families at the Commission, shared MSC’s outrage at the report’s conclusions.

“From the evidence that was presented at the Commission it was clear that the strategy of the miners was to negotiate with the company and the company wanted to break the strike, and that was ignored by [Judge Ian] Farlam because of his own politics.”

He continued: “The conclusion that the massacre was as a result of bad management and poor communication between the strikers and Lonmin does not explain why on the morning of 16 August, senior police officials ordered four mortuary trucks and 4000 additional machine guns.”

Nichol made the comments while speaking at a seminar on the report organised by the Alternative Information and Development Centre.

Nichol also blasted Judge Ian Farlam for failing to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence of political interference from Ramaphosa and Mthethwa.

The only senior figures implicated in the inquiry, which cost R153 million (approximately $12.3 million), were Mbombo and Phiyega.


“Misplaced and unfortunate”

The report accused officials from the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) of failing to exercise effective control and ensure the lawful conduct of the strikers – an accusation which Amcu has described as “misplaced and unfortunate”.

National Union of Mineworkers spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said that his organisation would carefully consider the finding to ensure that there “won’t be another Marikana”.

Lonmin is yet to respond to the report, which found that the company failed to respond effectively to the outbreak of violence by insisting that the non-striking workers should continue to go to work – even though it offered them no protection.

The Commission also criticised the company, which repatriated at least R400 million (approximately US$31.9 million) in profits every year to Bermuda between 1999 and 2012 and has avoided paying corporation tax in South Africa, for its unsatisfactory implementation of obligatory social and labour plans.

A recent report by the AIDC revealed that Lonmin has only built houses for workers despite being obliged to build 5500 houses over five years.