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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...