During the month of August in 2012, 37 miners were killed – 34 were shot down by the South African police on a single day. The miners were demanding that British mining company Lonmin pay them a living wage.
That day – August 16 2012 shook South Africa’s fragile, new democracy to the core. In as much as the massacre was traumatic for the country and the community of Marikana, what followed was shocking. Despite police investigations and a public commission of inquiry conducted by the state, no-one has been held accountable for the killings.
No one has been brought to justice.
As a result, no reparations have been paid to the families of the dead miners. No public apology has been issued. No trauma counselling has been offered to the community of Marikana.
Sikhala Sonke Demands
Sikhala Sonke which means “we cry together,” was formed by the women of Marikana. Some members are the widows of the miners. Others that joined are angry that nothing has changed in Marikana since 2012. Sikhala Sonke continued the struggle for a living wage for the miners after the massacre. It has also repeatedly made demands on Lonmin and the South Africa government to address the Marikana Massacre.
By March 2018, with Lonmin facing corporate takeover and holding its last AGM in London, the community reported no real improvements. Community leaders, including leader of Sikhala Sonke Thumeka Magwangqana, renewed their demands:
- Lonmin must make an apology to the entire South African nation and to the victims of the Massacre, (families of the deceased, the injured and the arrested) of August 2012.
- Lonmin must pay reparations to the affected parties, including all dependents of the deceased mineworkers and the injured and arrested workers who survived the Massacre.
- The reparations must also cover all psychological damage and/or emotional trauma for those who witnessed the arrests, injuries and deaths that took place during the massacre
- Lonmin must join calls for the miners who are in prison as a result of the massacre to be released, and for police officers and intellectual authors (i.e. politicians) of the Massacre to be prosecuted.
- There must be full and proper consultation by Lonmin with all affected parties regarding the proposed commemorative monument.
- Lonmin must take public responsibility for the environmental destruction at Marikana.
- Lonmin must ensure that people in the communities around the mine have sufficient water, proper sanitation and electricity
- Lonmin must fully comply with its current obligations under its Social and Labour Plan (SLP), including the development of 2638 (rental and ownership) accommodation units and 6000 apartments and ensure that these are genuinely affordable for mineworkers and the community, within the stipulated time-frames.
- Lonmin must add its voice to those calling for the review of the Farlam commission and actually finance the legal process.
- The company must stop using the excuse that it is now insolvent: it has made huge profits over the years. It must tell us what it has done with the money appropriated in 2011-12.
- If the company is sold, the new ownership must take responsibility for the massacre and reparations for the massacre, for providing housing and livelihoods and the other promises made.
- The company must guarantee livelihoods for the workers if a takeover by Sibanye-Stillwater occurs.
- Money must be set aside in the purchase price of Lonmin to assist with financing sustainable developmental projects, with independent problem-solving mechanisms and counselling but not limited to Sikhala Sonke.
- A covenant with specific time-frames must be entered into between the company and the entire mining community and must not only be with investors.
Lonmin's Social and Labour Plan
In order to get the rights to mine for platinum in Marikana, Lonmin was required by law (The Mining and Petroleum Resources Development Act) to submit a Social Labour Plan which outlines its plan to develop the community of Marikana.
In the plan, Lonmin promises to build 5,500 houses for the miners and their families and transform the hostels into family units.
However, in the last 11 years that Lonmin has been operating the mine, only three houses have been built and only 50 per cent of the hostels have been converted.
The people of Marikana are living in shacks with no water and electricity. Water has to be fetched from stand pipes that are far away from the homes. The burden of fetching the water falls on the women of Marikana.
The community do not have access to flush toilets and are forced to use pit latrines, with only a few available to the 33,000 people living in the area.
This situation of absolute poverty exists in parallel to a wealthy mining company that has shown increasing revenue over the years.
Lonmin’s revenue increased from £1.3 billion to £1.7bn between 2006 and 2008.
In addition, in 2007 the International Finance Corporation (IFC) invested £11.6 million in Lonmin to improve the social conditions around the mine.
Strike a Rock
Strike a Rock is a documentary that was produced by independent documentary film maker, Aliki Saragas. The film traces the fight against Lonmin, the police and the government as told through the friendship between two women activists, Primrose Sonti and Thumeka Magwangqana. This is a story of sisterhood – women leading the struggle, supporting each other and taking on capitalist patriarchy in South Africa.
Cyril Ramaphosa’s election as the ruling ANC’s president last month was largely greeted with sighs of relief and expressions of joy. Many believe his victory over Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma will enhance the ANC’s prospects ahead of the 2019 elections. Meanwhile, knowing his ascent marks the beginning of the end for President Jacob Zuma’s supremacy, the markets rejoiced and the Rand peaked for the first time in years. However, jubilation over Ramaphosa’s election obscures a murky past and stormy future. It is unclear exactly what changes South Africa’s likely next president will usher in. But what is certain is that he will not upturn the enduring apartheid structure of the economy – the system through which Ramaphosa made enormous profits and sanctioned murder with impunity.
A few weeks after the massacre there was another death in the community. Amidst a brutal crackdown Paulina Masuhlo, a powerful community leader, died after being shot by police. Paulina’s death helped galvanise the birth of Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana. As well as demanding criminal prosecution for the killings and compensation for the families, Sikhala Sonke also carries forward the demands those workers died for: a living wage and dignified conditions.