Minister urges caution as SA marks Marikana tragedy

SOUTH AFRICA — Religious leaders attend a memorial service yesterday in Marikana to commemorate the Marikana massacre. Today marks a year after police opened fire on thousands of strikers at platinum producer Lonmin’s mine northwest of Johannesburg which killed 34 and injured 78 people. The August shooting was described as the worst police brutality since the end of apartheid two decades ago. Three days before the commemoration the firm has recognised radical labour group AMCU, which led the wage strike, in an attempt to ease simmering inter-union tensions on the platinum belt.— AFP.

SOUTH AFRICA — Religious leaders attend a memorial service yesterday in Marikana to commemorate the Marikana massacre. Today marks a year after police opened fire on thousands of strikers at platinum producer Lonmin’s mine northwest of Johannesburg which killed 34 and injured 78 people. The August shooting was described as the worst police brutality since the end of apartheid two decades ago. Three days before the commemoration the firm has recognised radical labour group AMCU, which led the wage strike, in an attempt to ease simmering inter-union tensions on the platinum belt.— AFP.

Johannesburg — Minister in the presidency Collins Chabane called for calm, reconciliation and unity during yesterday’s commemoration of the Marikana tragedy. “This is a time for pulling together as a nation and working collectively to ensure that, a year after the tragedy, the events of 2012 do not revisit the people of Marikana or South Africa as a whole in any shape or form,” Chabane said in a statement.
Chabane said he was confident the Farlam Commission of Inquiry would get to the bottom of what happened in Marikana last year.
On 10 August last year, Lonmin rockdrillers embarked on an unprotected strike for a monthly salary of R12 500.
More workers joined the strike and the protesters gathered at a hill near Nkaneng informal settlement, some carrying weapons, such as pangas, spears, knobkerries, and iron rods.
On 16 August police trying to disperse and disarm them opened fire, and 34 people were killed.
Ten people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in strike-related violence the preceding week.
President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission to probe circumstances around the mass shooting.
Commemorations were held yesterday at the site of the shooting.
An Inter-Ministerial Committee [IMC] on the Marikana Tragedy was also appointed.
It is chaired by Chabane.
Meanwhile, the boycotting of the Marikana shooting commemoration by the ANC and the NUM was deeply worrisome, the Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo) said yesterday.
“In our view as Azapo, participation by NUM and ANC would go a long way in trying to bridge the gap between NUM and Amcu mineworkers – perhaps ease the tension in and around the mine,” spokesperson Funani KaNtontela said in a statement.
“Attending the commemoration would allow them an opportunity to apologise to families who would be present.”
KaNtontela said some of the men killed last year were members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). He called the union’s decision heartless.
On Thursday, the African National Congress in the North West said it would not take part in the event.
“The commemoration is organised by an illegitimate team called ‘Marikana Support Group’ — a group which the African National Congress does not recognise,” spokesperson Kenny Morolong said.
The NUM voiced similar concerns.
The Federation of Unions of SA said it was concerned that the inquiry into the event was still not concluded.
“We bemoan the fact that these families have not seen justice being done to the persons responsible for the death of their beloved fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons.
“The commission of inquiry must finalise its work so that the wounds can heal and we can move on,” general secretary Dennis George said.
George said Marikana was a lesson in how collective bargaining could go wrong. He said workers, employers, and government should work together to make collective bargaining a constructive form of social dialogue.
“This is the only fair and sustainable solution. History has taught us that any other approach will lead to chaos and unnecessary suffering by all involved,” George said.
In a related incident Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema was given a hero’s welcome at a commemoration rally in Marikana, North West, yesterday.
The crowd clapped, whistled, and raised hands when he arrived. Guests in a VIP tent rose when he entered.
Malema wore a red EFF beret, a black shirt, and dark sunglasses.
Malema arranged for lawyers to represent the 270 mineworkers arrested after the shooting. At the time he was suspended as leader of the ANC Youth League. He was later expelled from the ANC.
Men dressed in green Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) clothing sang union songs at the large white tent where families of the deceased mineworkers were seated. Men carried umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun and clapped in unison with their fellow workers.
Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said a year later mineworkers were still paid a “slave wage”.
“Nothing has changed. Workers are still not benefiting from the economy of the country,” he said. — Sapa

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