Anger boils five years after S.African massacre of miners
At the site of the 2012 Marikana massacre where police shot dead 34 strikers, thousands of South African miners sang remembrance songs Wednesday as campaigners demanded prosecutions and compensation.
The 34 miners were gunned down after police were deployed to break up a wildcat strike that had turned violent at the Lonmin-owned Marikana platinum mine, northwest of Johannesburg.
It was the worst police violence in South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994.
“It is a disgrace. Not a single cent has been paid to our people five years later,” Dali Mpofu, lawyer for some of the victims’ families, said, dismissing government claims that 1.17 billion rand ($88 million) had been offered in compensation.
“Our government is continuing to torture our people. The truth is still to come. The truth will come out,” he added.
The rocky hill where the shooting took place has become a monument to those who died in the massacre, which was captured on camera and beamed across the world in scenes reminiscent of apartheid-era police killings.
An official inquiry established by President Jacob Zuma put much of the blame for the deaths on police tactics used to disperse the 3,000 strikers, but no prosecutions have been brought.
In the days leading up to the attack, 10 others had been killed in violence related to the strike — including non-striking miners, security guards and two police officers who were hacked to death.
But the commission found a police operation to forcefully remove the miners, a few of whom were armed, should not have been carried out.
– ‘No justice’ –
“These guys died like flies,” said Morris Siyimba, a miner sitting on the hill during the commemoration events on Wednesday.
“That day I was lucky not to be shot. It is too painful (to recall),” he said.
“The government has not done anything. There has not been any justice.”
The families of the victims have accused the police of acting to avenge the two officers killed during the strike and have long demanded that senior police officials must be held accountable.
“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, director of Amnesty International South Africa.
She added that the government “needs to ensure that the wheels of justice start turning far faster than they have done over the past five years”.
The Pretoria-based Institute of Security Studies (ISS) think-tank issued a new report into accountability for the massacre, in which 70 others were injured alongside the 34 dead.
The only person to be penalised over the deaths has been the then national police commissioner Riah Phiyega, who was suspended on full pay in 2015.
The ISS called for fair compensation for those affected, prosecution of police officers who acted unlawfully and reforms to police recruitment and training.
“Government must demonstrate to South Africans and the world that the senseless loss of life at Marikana has resulted in lessons learned and will never occur again,” said ISS justice specialist Gareth Newham.
Politicians from opposition parties spoke at the event, calling for action on prosecutions and compensation, as well as better housing and pay.
The ceremony ended with the long list of victims being read out and candles lit to their memory as mourning families walked to the site of their loved ones’ deaths.