The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) is angered by recent violence at Lonmin’s Marikana Platinum mine in North West Province, which has left 44 people dead over the past two weeks. Of particular concern is the incident that took place on Thursday 16 August 2012, in which 34 strikers were shot dead and 78 others were injured by the South African Police Service (SAPS). The SJC condemns this action in the strongest possible terms and demands a full independent judicial inquiry to identify who was responsible, in order to ensure justice is provided to the families of those who perished and to ensure such an incident never occurs again.
The full extent and sequence of events that led to this tragedy are still unclear. It is however apparent that a severe vacuum in leadership led to the escalation of a potentially dangerous situation which had been brewing for months. It also appears likely that SAPS made several errors which culminated in a volatile situation in which heavily armed police officers engaged strikers with disproportionate and excessive force, for which there can be no excuse.
The SJC notes President Jacob Zuma’s announcement to establish a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the incident. To be effective, the inquiry must investigate events leading up to and including the tragedy – including the roles played by SAPS, Lonmin Platinum, Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), government ministers (including but not limited to Police, Mines and Labour), and other involved parties. Such an inquiry cannot ignore the historic and systemic exploitation and abuse of workers in mines across the country.
It is critical that this process is conducted independently, without interference and with the full cooperation of all concerned. We therefore strongly condemn recent remarks by National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega that police officers “should not be sorry for what happened”. Apart from being deeply offensive and insensitive, it is unacceptable for such claims to be made before a commission is concluded.
Events at Marikana highlight growing tensions within poor and working class communities in the wake of failures in service provision and government accountability, and rising inequality. The actions of SAPS will also serve to further erode the relationship between police and the public, already at dangerously low levels.
The SJC sends its deepest condolences to the families of those lost, and commits to continuing the struggle for a just and equal society free from violence, in which all constitutional rights are upheld.
For more information contact Axolile Notywala on 0742895220