Before beginning his final arguments to the commission in Pretoria, Dumisa Ntsebeza, for the families of miners killed in the 2012 unprotected strike, read the names of those killed as their relatives observed in silence.
“It s important because in the hustle and bustle of argument people become statistics, we talk about 37 people we represent,” he told the commission in Pretoria.
“Their relatives are here. And the difference between everyone else here, our people, those relatives, those families, are keen to know what at the end of the day is what is going to be found, why they were killed? The question is whether they were killed lawfully or unlawfully.”
He said they would argue that each and everyone was killed unlawfully by police.
Ntsebeza said police unlawfully killed four mineworkers on August 13, and others on August 16.
“The places in which the mineworkers have been kept… the majority of the places that you visit and saw are still compounds. People that are still mineworkers stay there, without family. They are still dehumanised,” he said.
“Why are we still having a perpetuation of this kind of service and conditions in a democracy?”
The conditions that the striking mineworkers in 2012, and those today, lived in were not the conditions ordinary humans were expected to live in.
“It is important to contextualise who these people are. Who are these mineworkers?” he said.
“We are talking about people who by reason of the low wages they were getting could never earn enough to other than sustain them and to have a little bit for their families when they stayed with them.”
That condition would be perpetuated, as their children would be forced into the same situation, with the same cycle of low wages perpetuated.
“Why is this so in a democracy? It may well be that it is not different from what the author of a book entitled ‘Learning to trust democracy’, which was published in 1999, said. The author is Michael Rebehn,” Ntsebeza said.
“He says what we now have in the new South Africa and that he said it in 1999… the new South Africa has been heading to a new socio-economic stratification.”
These would not be along the old lines of the past, but rather would be of an African, white upper class, dominating the bloated state apparatus and business sector versus a largely African underclass consisting of those who were not rewarded with a government job for their participation in the struggle, or who were unemployable.
“In a democracy founded on the values of equality, freedom, human dignity, a democracy informed by the values of ubuntu, how does it happen that a labour dispute escalates to a point where that very week 44 human lives are taken? Thirty-four in one day,” he said.
“What is the function of a police service in a democracy founded on those values? How does it deal with what it perceives to be lawlessness or unlawfulness? These are the answers the families are expecting the commission to assist them with.”