Prosecute police responsible for Marikana Massacre to stop police brutality

Marikana Massacre widows during the Marikana Massacre 8th Commemoration in Midrand, Johannesburg.
Marikana Massacre widows during the Marikana Massacre 8th Commemoration in Midrand, Johannesburg.
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE/SOWETAN

In Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect: Police Violence and Resistance in the United States, writer Maya Schenwar makes this profound statement: “Our democracy is controlled by a wealthy elite. Politicians who work for the wealthy need the police to protect them from the people. And so, the whole chain of command protects the killer cop. The ruling class give carte blanche to law enforcement, who in turn press down on those most stranded by the neoliberal state, the poor - and more so, the Black poor”.

I found myself thinking about this sentiment as I reflected on the Marikana massacre. August 16 marked the eighth anniversary of the massacre - an event that will go down the books of history as one of the most diabolical moments of our democratic dispensation.

On August 16 2012, 34 minerworkers were killed and 78 injured at the Lonmin-owned Marikana platinum mine in the North West province.

The incident was the single most lethal use of force by South African security forces against civilians since the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960.

In the aftermath of the 2012 massacre, former president Jacob Zuma appointed retired judge, Ian Gordon Farlam, to chair the Marikana Commission of Inquiry. The Commission’s primary objective was to investigate matters of public, national and international concern arising out of the tragic incidents that had occurred at the mine.

The report from the commission was released in 2015, and the report largely exonerated the key political figures accused of having a hand in the events leading to the Marikana massacre. These included the man who would later be president of the republic, Cyril Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa, at the time a non-executive director at Lonmin, pressured former police minister Nathi Mthethwa and former mineral resources minister Susan Shabangu to increase policing of the strike. It was, in part, this increased policing that resulted in the bloodshed.

Eight years since the massacre, none of those who sprayed bullets at the miners have been prosecuted. In addition to this, several recommendations made by the Farlam Commission are yet to be implemented, including the provision of decent housing to the widows and families of the slain miners.

A few days ago, CEO of Sibanye-Stillwater, which took over the mine from Lonmin, claimed that only six houses were handed over and that the lockdown had hampered efforts to build more. This, despite the lockdown being declared only in March this year.

This casual approach to ensuring justice is done is deeply problematic. Our government is treating private mining companies with kid gloves – and always has.

This set parameters for the exploitation of workers, which led to the Marikana massacre. In addition, the persistent failure to prosecute those responsible in the massacre has further fuelled police brutality in the country. South African police are brazen in their brutality, as evidenced during the lockdown where, within just 90 days, almost 50 cases of police brutality were opened.

At least 10 people – all of them black – have been killed by the police during the lockdown.

Security forces were deployed mainly to poor black areas such as high-density townships while the more affluent areas, predominantly White, have been shielded from the violence.

This pattern of police brutality and the assault on black bodies was highlighted by Marikana. It cannot continue. Someone needs to be held responsible for the killings of those workers or we are allowing police to be a law unto themselves, and thereby, setting parameters for genocide.

 

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