On Tuesday, August 16, hundreds of mine workers and residents of Marikana province in South Africa gathered to commemorate the shooting of 34 Lonmin mine workers by the police.
Four years ago on August 16, 2012, police in South Africa shot dead 34 miners who were among hundreds of workers striking at the Lonmin mine in Marikana. The miners were demanding a pay raise and better work conditions from the mine management. However, the protests had repeatedly turned violent in the days leading up to the fatal shooting, resulting in the deaths of two police officers and several others.
Police say they shot at the striking workers in self-defence and in an attempt to disperse the crowd, but controversies continue to surround the police action after investigations revealed that most of the victims were shot in the back and far away from police lines. In October last year, South African President Jacob Zuma suspended Commissioner of Police Riah Phiyega over her role in the incident.
The Marikana massacre is now considered the single biggest episode of the use of lethal force by armed security personnel against civilians in South Africa since 1960.
News24Wire reports that on Tuesday, many miners were seen “carrying knobkerries…to one of the two koppies where the shooting took place. The president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) Joseph Mathunjwa and some of the relatives of those killed in the 2012 incident were expected to speak.”
The AMCU explained that it had set up a trust fund to help the families of those killed, which so far contained about 2 million rand in donations with ongoing appeals for support expected to increase that amount.
In a press release to mark the day, South Africa’s ruling party the African National Congress (ANC) called on South Africans to draw lessons from Marikana about the importance of peaceful resolutions to workplace conflicts to ensure that the country never again experiences a similar incident.
The statement read:
“We must never forget that a genuine campaign for workers’ rights, including decent working and living conditions, was at the heart of the Marikana conflict. It is for that reason that the ANC calls on all stakeholders to use this occasion to work together and refocus their energies towards bringing lasting stability in the area. This can only be achieved by meaningfully redressing structural inequalities that still persist in the workplace, especially in the mining industry.”
The party also promised to continue to support the rights of workers while urging the government to partner with the private sector to ensure that such rights are duly recognised.