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Marikana Massacre: Cry for justice‚ five years on

15 August 2017 - 10:23 By Sipho Mabena
THE ANGER REMAINS: The commemoration of the massacre at Marikana. File photo
THE ANGER REMAINS: The commemoration of the massacre at Marikana. File photo

The wheels of justice must be fast tracked for victims of the tragedy at Marikana‚ Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

Commenting on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the tragedy that left 34 miners dead and at least 70 injured when police opened fire during a mining strike‚ following a week of heightened tensions‚ the organisation asked why no one has been prosecuted and why compensation has not been awarded to the families of the dead and those injured.

“The tragedy of the Marikana killings is compounded by the shocking fact that no one responsible for the bloodshed has yet been held accountable‚” said Shenilla Mohamed‚ executive director of Amnesty International South Africa.

The shooting occurred on August 16 2012.

She said if the government wants to demonstrate that it is committed to truth and human rights‚ it must ensure that the wheels of justice start turning far faster than they have done over the past five years.

Mohamed said in June 2015 the Farlam Commission‚ which was set up by the South African government to look into the circumstances of the killings‚ recommended a full investigation under the Director of Public Prosecutions‚ with a view to ascertaining the criminal liability of members of the SAPS who were involved in the events at Marikana.

She said in December 2016 President Jacob Zuma announced that criminal charges would be brought against senior police officers involved in the killings.

In March 2017‚ police watchdog the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) idenitifed 72 police officers for prosecution in relation to their roles in the killings at Marikana.

“The dockets were submitted to the National Prosecuting Authority in May. To date‚ however‚ no police officers involved have been prosecuted‚” she said.

In July 2017‚ Amnesty International met with some of the victims of the shootings and their families at Nkaneng informal settlement near Lonmin’s Roland shaft‚ where the lobby group said they still live in inadequate housing and squalid conditions.

In the 2016 report‚ "Smoke and Mirrors: Lonmin’s failure to address housing conditions at Marikana"‚ Amnesty International stated the company that owns the mine‚ UK-based Lonmin Plc‚ had committed to constructing 5‚500 houses for workers by 2011 under its 2006 Social and Labour Plan (SLP). The organisation said that poor housing conditions faced by Lonmin employees‚ along with grievances over low pay‚ were among the main drivers of the strike.

Mohammed said many of the individuals Amnesty International met expressed their anger and disappointment that so little had changed in the five years since the killings.

Former Lonmin employee *Johannes Khwedu‚ whose childhood friend was killed at Marikana‚ said he was appalled there had been no action against the police who shot the protesting miners in front of international television cameras.

“How can they kill so many people without consequences? The government must arrest those who killed them‚” he told Amnesty International.

*Justin Kolobe‚ a former rock drill operator at Lonmin mine who survived the shooting but was permanently paralysed‚ is still waiting for both justice and reparation. He lays the blame squarely on the South African government for the lack of progress.

“There is nothing happening to the people who shot us. This is the work of the government. If they don’t want anything to happen‚ it won’t happen. Forget it‚” he said.

*Sarafina Jobe lost her husband‚ a Marikana employee‚ in the shootings and is struggling to feed and support her family without the R2850 he would send home each month.

She told Amnesty International: “I feel a real pain sometimes when I think that he is gone. My heart beats quickly‚ my chest hurts and I get a headache when I think about it at night. We want compensation‚ and we want to know how our husbands died‚ who killed them and for what reason. That is the only way to recognize that we lost a soul‚ and that he cannot ever be replaced.”

*Their real identities have been changed to protect them from reprisals.