Report’s findings ring hollow for Marikana widow

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Marikana_massacreMotsamai Mokotjo

ANGER and despair were the overriding emotions for ‘Mathabizile Monese, whose husband was killed in the violent wage strike at Lonmin operations in Marikana, following the release of findings into the 2012 massacre last week.

Ms Monese’s (26) husband, Khanare Elias, was among the four Basotho in the 34 striking Lonmin workers who were killed in Marikana‚ Rustenburg in North West province on 16 August 2012 after the South African Police Service (SAPS) opened fire. The event drew global condemnation and has ever since been dubbed the “Marikana massacre”.

The strike, which had begun on 9 August over a wage dispute, culminated in a standoff on 16 August, with thousands of miners who had gathered at a koppie, near the Nkaneng informal settlement ordered by the police to disperse.

When the miners refused to budge, the police opened fire on them with automatic weapons, killing 34 and injuring scores of others.

Thereafter, President Jacob Zuma appointed the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, led by retired judge Justice Ian Gordon Farlam, “to investigate matters of public, national and international concern arising out of the tragic incidents at the Lonmin Mine in Marikana”.

The Commission was tasked with enquiring into and making findings and recommendations concerning the conduct of Lonmin‚ the SAPS‚ the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU)‚ the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM)‚ the Department of Mineral Resources and other government departments‚ as well as individuals and groupings.

The commission of inquiry’s 646-page report was released by Mr Zuma last Thursday after nearly three years since the fateful day.

It concluded that Lonmin did not use its best endeavours to resolve the disputes that arose between itself and its workers who participated in the unprotected strike on the one hand and between the strikers and those workers who did not participate in the strike.

It also accuses Lonmin of not responding appropriately to the threat of‚ and the outbreak of violence.

Individual strikers and loose groupings of strikers, the report further noted, promoted a situation of conflict and confrontation which gave rise‚ directly or indirectly‚ to the deaths of Lonmin’s security guards and non-striking workers‚ and endangered the lives of the non-striking workers who were not injured.

The report also ordered a probe into SAPS Commissioner Riah Phiyega’s fitness to hold office while clearing cabinet ministers of responsibility for the massacre.

Mr Zuma said police had jumped the gun and it was likely that waiting one more day, instead of storming the hill near Lonmin’s Marikana mine on the 16th, could have prevented the strikers’ deaths.

“The commission has found that it would have been impossible to disarm and disperse the strikers without significant bloodshed, on the afternoon of the 16th of August,” he said.

“The police should have waited until the following day, when the original encirclement plan, which was substantially risk-free, could have been implemented.”

The report made equally damning findings against North West provincial Police Commissioner Zukiswa Mbombo, also recommending a probe into her fitness for the job, and called on prosecuting authorities in that province to mull the possibility of criminal charges against police involved in the operation.

Regarding SA Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was a non-executive director at Lonmin, the commission found that given the deaths that had already occurred, his intervention did not cause the increase in police on site, nor did he know the operation would take place on 16 August.

The report also criticised NUM and the AMCU for not exercising effective control over their members.

Last December, Lonmin executives visited Lesotho and offered jobs to the direct dependants or any other nominated relatives of the deceased miners. Ms Monese was among the dependents who took up the offer and is now employed at Lonmin’s Marikana mine.

 

Speaking to the Lesotho Times via telephone from Rustenburg this week, Ms Monese said no effort was made to inform them of the release of the report. And, as if to add insult to injury, she fumed, the dependents were unable to watch the live broadcast of the report presented by Mr Zuma at the Lonmin offices after being told that the television set there did not work.

“Our lawyers only told us on Thursday afternoon that the report would be released later that day,” she said.

“What was also shocking is that they heard it through the media and not through official channels. They (lawyers) are yet to study the report and get to the gist of its core recommendations.”

Ms Monese added that the trauma of her husband’s death in 2012 was compounded by the death of her child in December of the same year.

Instead of bringing closure, she said, the report had only opened up old wounds.

“From my viewpoint, the report did not speak to me directly and has no relevance to my situation,” noted Ms Monese.

“It’s not just the police who should be held accountable. Their superiors should also take responsibility.

“Those who were implicated in the report should be arrested. We (widows) share the same sentiments about the details in it.”

Ms Monese said the only support she had received from Lonmin was in the form of a job.

“Life has been very difficult for me because I used to have someone with whom I would share my problems. Now I have to fend for myself,” she said.

Another widow of one of the deceased miners, who opted for anonymity, told this paper they had been instructed by their lawyers not to talk to the media since the contents of the report were still being studied.

Asked to comment on the report’s recommendation that the SAPS be held “criminally liable”, the widow said: “The net should be thrown even wider to nab senior government officials who contributed towards the death of my husband.

“(Commissioner) Phiyega was not helpful at all during the inquiry. In fact, she was very evasive. Her conduct made it even more painful because the police fall under her stewardship.”

She added that her brother had since taken up the offer to work at Lonmin.

Meanwhile, all the 11 children of the killed miners attend New Millennium Primary School in Maseru. Lonmin has also committed to building a computer laboratory at the school to assist, not only the deceased’s children, but the entire school.

One the children, whose name could not be revealed for her privacy, told the Lesotho Times this week that the mine was paying for their tuition and boarding fees.

She said: “It’s a good a school compared to the one attended previously, and all our educational needs are being taken care of.

“The mining company has helped us a lot in paying our fees. We always get what is required.”

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