By BO Staff Writer
Today marks five years since 34 black mine workers were murdered for fighting for a R12 500 living wage. The miners had been on strike against their British employer, Lonmin platinum mine. Loosing profits and generally agitated by these defiant black men and women, the firm broke down the strike by mowing down and injuring the workers. No one has been held responsible for these killings.
In a rally held to commemorate the day of the shooting, two speakers stood out, one, a family member of one of the deceased, and a mine worker who survived the massacre.
“Andiyazi ukuba yintaba kabani le. Badutyulwa njani abantu abahleli entabeni?” said the family member. “Sasiphakama sihamba entabeni, ngoku kuthwa sabulala amaqabane ethu,” says the miner.
The first statement, said by an emotional, greying black man, is a rhetorical question, how do people get shot while sitting on the Koppie? Who’s Koppie is this? The second statement is a recollection of being at the Koppie. The miner says they were preparing to leave the Koppie, and now they are being accused of killing some of their comrades. He further elaborates that not a single person has been held accountable for the murder of the mine workers, but some miners go in and out of courts because they are being accused of killing their own comrades. Such is the irony of black life in South Africa.
White supremacy and the Marikana Massacre
In a horrific show of the extent white power is willing to go to, to maintain its power, we saw, live on television, the murdering of 34 black people and the injuring of others. Sanctioned by the British, white owned mine, Lonmin and instigated by the man now running for presidency, Cyril Ramaphosa, the bloodbath became a reminder to all who wear the black skin (whether with pride or not), that black death is sanctioned, executed and no one held responsible. Worst of all, as a black person, your death is not safe from appropriation by the same white hands which sanctioned your death.
In a white supremacist and capitalist dispensation, black workers are subjected to inhumane working and living conditions, and when they try to correct this, they are killed. This is a deliberate act to maintain the structures of both capitalism and white supremacy. The white owned media, which is a functionary of capitalism and white supremacy, functions to normalise structuralise violence by demonising legitimate acts of revolt against the white system (as was the case during the Marikana strike). Then the white media sanitises, erases and appropriates violence meted out on black bodies.
Political posturing and regime change
The opposition parties wasted no time in using the Marikana commemoration ceremony as a space to lobby for the removal of the president, Jacob Zuma. Democratic Alliance leader, Mmusi Maimane shouted in shaky isiZulu, that the workers need to remove Zuma, “the dictator” from power, in order for change to occur in Marikana. United Democratic Movement (UDM) president, Bantu Holomisa, and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader, Julius Malema faulted the ruling party for the massacre and also called for the removal of the president.
The speakers made no mention of the role the British white-owned platinum mine, Lonmin played in sanctioning the killing of the miners. Instead, the opposition, and the trade union, AMCU, shared a stage with the CEO and just demanded that the day be declared a public holiday.
On the other hand, AMCU president, Joseph Mathunjwa, opened his address by saying that he was jealous of the amount of applause Magara received when he spoke. It boggles the mind why the CEO of the same company which was responsible for the killing of the Marikana miners was even invited to the commemoration in the first place. Mathunjwa then went on to attack the ANC’s radical economic transformation agenda, saying the ANC was not genuine. He also slammed the Mining Charter which proposes that black people own 30% of mines within 12 months.
Today, five years later, the murder of black people is now called a “tragedy” and not a massacre. Today, the CEO of the same company which ordered the murder of the miners, sits on the same stage with the widows of the miners and shouts “amandla!” Today, those who are agents of regime change, conveniently forget that the same people who are paying for their regime change project, are the same people who own these mines which exploit, discriminate and kill black workers.
In the commemoration, the family member of one of the miners also asked the question, who was responsible for the massacre, the crowd responded in unison, “Ramaphosa”. He responded, “makabanjwe ke looRamaphosa”, meaning, let Ramaphosa face the law then. It was a refreshing move away from the choreographed political posturing of the opposition parties which spoke, including Democratic Alliance (DA), Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the United Democratic Front (UDM).
To the father who asked, who’s Koppie is this, we say, it is yours, your son’s, and all those who blood was spilled on it. Father, you own the platinum too, which your son dug up daily, and ended up dying for.