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Marikana happened because we forgot to remember, says Thuli Madonsela

14 August 2020 - 16:58 By Naledi Shange
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela has delivered a virtual memorial lecture in honour of the 44 people who died at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana in August 2012.
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela has delivered a virtual memorial lecture in honour of the 44 people who died at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana in August 2012.

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela said on Friday that the 44 deaths at Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana in August 2012 during strike action were unnecessary.

Delivering a virtual memorial lecture held by Sibanye-Stillwater, which took over Lonmin last year, Madonsela unpacked the social ills which left 34 mineworkers and 10 police and security officials dead.

Madonsela said the tragedy unfolded because SA forgot to remember its history.

“Marikana happened because we forgot to remember. We forgot to remember our ugly past, our unjust past, and the legacy it had left with us. We forgot about healing and we focused on renewal. A renewal without a foundation cannot work. It is like trying to rebuild a house that has a structurally defective foundation. At some stage, it is all going to tumble down,” Madonsela said.

She added: “When we talk about Marikana, everyone remembers the man in the green blanket, and that is important, but we should also remember the nameless people who died, the nameless people who were maimed. The nameless widows, sons, daughters, mothers and relatives who live today with the pain of the past.”

Madonsela said that from the documents that she had seen, she believed Sibanye-Stillwater was on the right track to establishing healing and renewal among its employees and the community in which it was entrenched.

She said companies needed to change their approach between capital and labour, themselves and the communities and instead move to an ubuntu-founded relationship.

“Within that ubuntu-founded relationship it is about co-creating the future. I looked at the programme and it includes the unions, it includes communities, and I think this promises to be the kind of shift that is going to move the needle not just for yourselves, but for the country as a whole,” Madonsela said.

“But to be able to sustain this you need a growth mindset, not a public relations exercise. You need a mindset that acknowledges past mistakes. You need a mindset that embraces vulnerability, knowing that you will make mistakes knowing that you have made mistakes, knowing that you will be criticised, but acknowledging wherever there were mistakes and learning from them and moving forward.

“And, above all, this kind of enterprise requires collaboration. It requires letting go of some of the things that we treasured in the past and building from the ashes,” she added.

Madonsela highlighted that there was a lot of corruption and mistreatment of workers by those in power because people were neglecting to acknowledge where the country came from.

“Marikana and many of the things that are happening today, including people stealing from the poor, stealing from health professionals who are on the front line, denying them PPE or giving them faulty PPE just for greed. This is part of the facts that we have failed to remember.

“We need to remember what went wrong in the past so that we can confront that past, dismantle that past and build afresh. We need to renew, not just the way we do things, but also the way that we think, from thinking extractively to ubuntu thinking, from a polarised engagement with each other to co-creating the communities that we want to live in and the future that we want,” Madonsela said.