Avatar photo

By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist


Marikana: Unity will help with the healing

During the unofficial industrial action to back up their demands for higher wages at the Lonmin platinum mine, workers had no leader to turn to for guidance – becoming agitated, angry and militant.


Addressing a gathering to mark the commemoration of the Marikana massacre 10 years ago, Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa said something profound – stressing the importance of collaborating with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), burying the hatched in the interest of workers’ rights. “We are saying to NUM, comrades, if there is any commonality to fight with the enemy, which is the white monopoly capital, we won’t lose anything except the chains of oppression,” Mathunjwa told the crowds who gathered at the famous Marikana koppie, where 34 miners were mowed down by police on…

Subscribe to continue reading this article
and support trusted South African journalism

Access PREMIUM news, competitions
and exclusive benefits

SUBSCRIBE
Already a member? SIGN IN HERE

Addressing a gathering to mark the commemoration of the Marikana massacre 10 years ago, Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa said something profound – stressing the importance of collaborating with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), burying the hatched in the interest of workers’ rights.

“We are saying to NUM, comrades, if there is any commonality to fight with the enemy, which is the white monopoly capital, we won’t lose anything except the chains of oppression,” Mathunjwa told the crowds who gathered at the famous Marikana koppie, where 34 miners were mowed down by police on that fateful 16 August, 2012.

Mathunjwa’s message was long overdue. During the unofficial industrial action to back up their demands for higher wages at the Lonmin platinum mine, workers had no leader to turn to for guidance – becoming agitated, angry and militant.

ALSO READ: ‘We have no government’: Nothing has changed since Marikana massacre, says miner

Missing was the unifying voice of Mathunjwa, then NUM president Senzeni Zokwana and the Lonmin management – leaders who were expected to calm down the anger, be visible and send a joint message to end the strife.

Neither could the ANC, nor tripartite alliance leaders be seen lifting their hands or uttering anything to help in diffusing the tensions at a crucial time – an indictment on so- called leaders of society.

Ultimately, Marikana was left to specialised police units to resolve: 600 heavily armed police officers, about 300 of them carrying R5 automatic weapons, with an additional 4 000 rounds of ammunition and four mortuary vans being ordered.

The rest is history. Post-Marikana, what has been disturbing has been the lack of unity being shown by leaders of both Amcu and NUM in holding a joint gathering to heal old wounds and take stock of how much has been done to address the welfare of families of the total of 44 people who died there.

Building unity and burying the hatchet is not an end in itself, but a means to an end – a process, requiring more than just lip service. We want to see workers attending the commemoration in diverse regalia, representing the two unions; a prayer service which does not just degenerate into government or ANC bashing.

The commemoration should offer an opportunity to inculcate an atmosphere of unity and solidarity among workers. Marikana requires a multipronged approach with all key stakeholders – including President Cyril Ramaphosa – being allowed to play a role and engage with the many widows and families affected.

It is not merely a platform for Amcu and some opportunistic political party leaders to speak. The entire South Africa has an interest in seeing that we never ever return to a Marikana.

Launched in 2020 by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba under the themes of “honour, engage and create”, Sibanye-Stillwater, which bought Lonmin, has championed and supported the Marikana Renewal project, seeking to redress wounds of the past.

“Marikana Renewal acknowledges the tragic events of August 2012 and calls on all stakeholders to work together to rebuild relationships and to co-create a better future for the communities,” reads part of the project objectives.

Among its key pillars, the Sibanye-Stillwater project has listed education, welfare, economic development, health and roads – and offered scholarships to several children orphaned by the violence and police massacre in Marikana.

The tragedy – a blot on our democracy – calls for all hands on deck, regardless of union or political affiliation. It is deeds, not words, that matter.

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits