Legacy of South African mine killings is still bitter, one year on

Gathering for 34 South African miners shot dead by police is boycotted by ANC

A year after 34 miners were gunned down by police on a dusty hill outside Johannesburg, South Africa continues to grapple with the legacy of their deaths.

A commission of inquiry established by President Jacob Zuma to investigate the killings has yet to deliver its report, and many doubt it will be released before the ruling party’s bid for re-election next year.

No police officer has been arrested over the shootings. The Constitutional Court has yet to hand down its ruling on whether the state should pay the legal costs of the miners arrested and injured. It  postponed its decision, initially scheduled for yesterday’s anniversary of the killings, until next week.

Thousands gathered at an open-air commemoration of the 16 August killings, the most deadly use of police force since the African National Congress came to power in 1994, ending white minority rule. Conspicuously absent were officials from the government, the ANC or the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

Rivalry between two unions – the ANC-allied NUM and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) – was at the heart of last year’s unrest at Lonmin’s platinum mine.  Membership of the NUM, which used to be the majority union, has reportedly dropped to 20 per cent among Lonmin’s workforce.

The ruling party’s provincial chapter refused to attend the commemoration, insisting in a statement that it was a politically motivated event. The decision was heavily criticised, and the ANC’s national office later expressed its regret.

The AMCU, which called last year’s unofficial strikes, is again pushing for substantial wage increases. In its statement on the anniversary, the ANC said the government “cannot allow a situation where criminal elements undermine the rule of law under the guise of labour unrest in Marikana.”

“The South African Police Service must restore order and peace in the region, upholding the memory of the compatriots who lost their lives in Marikana,” the ruling party said.

Standing at the bottom of the Wonderkop slope where he scrambled for his life, one miner, Peter Shedie, said last year’s events, when he and his striking colleagues gathered for an update on negotiations, defied imagination.

“We had been told the manager of the mine would meet us to discuss wages,” he said. “If they only had come to talk to us, this wouldn’t have happened.” Instead of Lonmin negotiators, hundreds of police stormed the hill with automatic rifles, leaving 34 dead and at least 78 injured.

 “‘Marikana’ has become a byword for resistance,” says sociologist Peter Alexander, who has also written a book about the killings. “Angry farmworkers speak of ‘doing a Marikana’ when they protest, the poor are calling new informal settlements ‘Marikana’, frustrated teachers speak of ‘Marikana’ strikes,” he told The Independent.

“People are still very angry, and the government has isolated themselves,” he said on the sidelines of the commemoration. “It would have been a perfect occasion for the leaders of the two unions to get together and shake hands and show a joint desire for peace.”

“People have begun to overcome the grieving of last year,” Mr Alexander said, adding that the crowd was dry-eyed, but cynical. “Government has never been this out of touch with its electorate,” he said.

The commemoration ceremony was attended by several opposition politicians, including former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, who recently founded a new political party ahead of elections next year.

Mr Malema addressed the crowd, denouncing the government, and its response to the Marikana tragedy. He has called for the nationalisation of the country’s mines. Labour unrest continues in the mining sector, with striking workers continuing to demand substantial wage increases.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links