Socialist Worker

The state forces ranged against South Africa's striking miners

Jim Nichol is representing miners’ families at the inquiry into the Marikana massacre in South Africa. He reports on developments

Issue No. 2327


The official commission resumed last week into the police shooting of 112 striking Lonmin platinum miners—killing 34—at Marikana on 16 August.

So much has come up that I don’t know where to start, but try this. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) claims to represent south Africa’s miners.

Yet on 13 August its general secretary Frans Baleni issued a press release stating, “We call for the deployment of the Special Task Force or the SA National Defence Force to deal decisively with the criminal elements.”

The same day Lonmin management sent a letter to Susan Shabangu, minister of mineral resources.

It said, “The state should bring its might to bear on this crucial sector of the economy using resources at its disposal to resolutely bring the situation under control. The police and army presence needs to be planned.”

But most shocking is Cyril Ramaphosa, once the militant trade union leader who was imprisoned and banned for leading the NUM under apartheid. Now he is a director of Lonmin.

On 15 August he emailed Lonmin’s chief commercial officer Albert Jamieson saying of the striking miners, “They are plainly dastardly criminals and must be characterised as such… There needs to be concomitant action to address this situation.”

Just a day later the police took action. They machine gunned 34 miners to death.

Access

The inquiry had been adjourned to allow families of miners time to gain access. But now it has restarted the police are arresting members of the strike committee. They are arresting our witnesses. They are intimidating residents of Marikana.

Since this Commission commenced the majority of the strike committee have been arrested for murder. They are being held in jail.

On Tuesday of last week 14 people from Marikana left the Commission hearing in a minibus—a mixture of witnesses and strike leaders. A police roadblock, with armoured vehicles and 30 or 40 officers stopped them.

All 14 were made to lie face down in the dirt, with police boots on their necks. One officer called, “Move and I’ll shoot.” Another said, “Those four.” Four strike leaders were taken away and are now in jail. The other ten are terrified.

Everyone remembers how the 270 miners who were arrested on the day of the massacre were then faced with bogus murder charges. Everyone remembers Paulina Masutlho.

Police rampaged through Marikana at 9am on Saturday 15 September, while the strike was still in progress. Paulina was out shopping when they shot her in the stomach and legs with rubber bullets. She died from her injuries.

She was a 45 year old ANC councillor who supported the strike. So who now wants to come from Marikana to give the commission? No one.

Send money to support the campaign:

Account Name:HRMT 1 for Marikana Support Campaign
Bank:Nedbank
Branch:Constantia
Branch Code:101109
Account No:1011102366
Reference:Marikana Support Campaign
SWIFT:NEDSZAJJ

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Article information

International
Tue 30 Oct 2012, 18:12 GMT
Issue No. 2327
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