Brian Sokutu
Senior Print Journalist
3 minute read
18 Oct 2021
8:46 pm

Marikana could have been avoided – expert

Brian Sokutu

Marikana, she said, demonstrated 'a general lack of mediation skills in the country to solve serious problems between the employee and employer'.

The rocky outcrop at Marikana where 34 miners were gunned down by police in August 2012. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu/African News Agency

After two decades serving as senior commissioner for the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), retired Mapalo Tsatsimpe is someone whose brains should be picked on resolving conflict.

She knows all about conflict, dispute and mediation.

In her latest book Mediation, Tsatsimpe argues that the Marikana massacre nine years ago, which saw 34 striking mine workers being mowed down by police, with 78 others seriously injured in Rustenburg’s platinum belt, could have been avoided, had all key stakeholders given mediation a chance.

Among issues the book focuses on, are some of the weaknesses with the CCMA, leaders who allow a conflict to occur and employers who put commercial interests first.

While tensions were simmering in Marikana between mine workers and employers Lonmin, Tsatsimpe said the conflict was allowed by leaders from all sides to break out.

“We allowed Marikana to get to where it got to.

“Parties knew long beforehand about the problems in Marikana, before there was a serious dispute.

“That conflict was never prevented by leaders – reluctant to prevent conflicts from becoming disputes.

“We wait for disputes to occur and not dealing with mediation the way we should be dealing with,” she said.

Marikana, she said, demonstrated “a general lack of mediation skills in the country to solve serious problems between the employee and employer”.

Picture: Supplied

Said Tsatsimpe: “On a yearly basis, we have seen massive strikes in the country – some turning very violent.

“Parties should not merely negotiate from a commercial point of view, but should create value for all stakeholders by doing the best they can, to resolve disputes.

“With the skills that I have, I need to share my experience to empower other people.

“We should be tired of strikes that often lead to injury, death and destruction of property.

“Mediation could be an answer to a myriad of problems that we daily face.

“It is not just about a dispute between an employer and employee, it can work in family, divorce matters, between a child and a parent; and in resolving community tensions.”

As former senior CCMA commissioner, Tsatsimpe said she “realised that there is when it comes to mediation – from the employer and employee side – we lack the skills.

“We deal with disputes which we are unable to resolve.

“The only problem is that we are not using mediation to our benefit.

“At CCMA we don’t have mediators who understand what mediation is all about.

“We get into a process in a rushed way and not giving matters the mediation attention deserved.

“The Labour Relations Act also does not go in-depth in explaining what mediation is.

“The book I have written explains the difference between mediation and conciliation,” she said.

She added: “In conciliation, you are not even waiting for a dispute to occur.

“In conciliation, there is a conflict. Conciliation is about preventing that conflict to become a dispute.

“I hope this book will serve to enlighten employees, employers and unions.”

brians@citizen.co.za