Marikana events shamed all, says Shabangu
The deaths at Lonmin's Marikana mine in North West which reverberated in every corner of the country had shamed everyone, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu said on Tuesday.
"They drive us on to make amends, to review in utmost depth the happenings in our sector, to check any further outbreaks -- indeed, to ensure that these things never, ever, happen again," she told the National Assembly during a special debate on the tragedy which saw at least 34 dead and 78 injured.
The events should refocus the collective might of the nation on answers not recriminations, on rationality not rhetoric.
"We should refuse to be cowed into a state of mind where we accept the notion -- popular in certain circles abroad -- that we are nothing but a country at war with itself. Far from it.
"The African National Congress... has consistently and throughout its hundred years stood on the side of natural justice and the rights of those who, through the sweat of their brow, contribute to the well-being of us all."
Shabangu said having spent countless hours either in meetings or consultations with the affected parties, she had come to understand the events that started from a wildcat strike by about 3 000 rock drillers on August 10.
"We have met with all stakeholders in the industry and it is clear that we will have to work together in tackling the many socio-economic challenges in the mining industry," she said.
"It surely cannot be correct that mining communities such as those of Marikana and other mining areas should see prosperity and conspicuous consumption by companies and mine bosses whilst they continue to experience poverty."
The mines should redouble efforts in the cause of good social and labour programmes to ensure that this happened.
"We call on the entire mining industry (and not just the hard rock industry) to go beyond dealing with us as mere regulators towards a situation where they themselves take the initiative in being highly visible and innovative in addressing the socio-economic issues in the mines and surrounding communities. Transparency should be the order of the day," she said.
These communities could be the ones who did the actual peer review of the situation. If they were unhappy, the industry was equally so.
"So, if we can all really work together, in a spirit of collaboration and fairness with minimum recrimination, we can use this tragedy to undo many of the wrong practices that still mark the mining sector. That will be a monument to the fallen at Marikana."
Shabangu appealed for all to exercise restraint when it came to rushing to judgements, pending the outcome of the inquiry.
"This appeal is made in the light of the clear public interest need to be sensitive to perceptions about South Africa's mining industry and its prospects," she said.
"No one wishes anyone to hold back on sincerely held views, and factual and constructive criticism. We welcome that. But, with at least one formerly buoyant part of our mining industry facing onerous new challenges, it can be hoped that the net effect of comment will be to allow the inquiry to run its course unprejudiced -- and to help to secure and not damage our common future," Shabangu said.