Bishop Jo Seoka, Chair of the Bench marks Foundation
August 16th, 2021 marks nine years of untold consequences of police brutality on the koppie at Marikana. Truth be told, it was an unprecedented development ignited by years of exploitation as a result of migratory labour system to elect black lives for another massacre in a democracy.
All that the workers wanted and appealed for to the employer, Lonmin was a living wage. Instead, they got live ammunition rewarding them with death and graves and not money or decent housing.
The Zuma saga nearly reminded us of what we wish to forget despite the reality of history repeating itself. Thinking about Marikana massacre we cannot help but wish to bury our heads in the sand. Ten years later, the miners died to profit a degrading capitalist system.
It is no secret that in the same year the Lonmin CEO and his Executive Directors, and none-executives were rewarded with hefty bonuses and ran all the way to the bank smiling unperturbed by the widows occasioned by greed.
A good example is that of Ben Magara who received R11Million bonus in shares. Meanwhile the miners went limping to their home with grief and empty hands. Some of them as in Mzoxolo Magidiwana are yet to receive a cent for their arrest and injury.
To date the surviving victims, widows, and orphans of the Marikana massacre have nothing to show in direction of empathy for a humane existence.
Even as there is a talk of Platinum group of metals prize dream increase, the miners’ wages remain a recurring nightmare. Not much is said about their families except those wives and relatives of the deceased who were employed at the mine.
The culprits who perpetrated the crime, that claimed lives of innocent mine workers, are still enjoying the rewards of the “job well done” (sic) and so are the directors including the sitting president who is yet to publicly atone for callous sins, omission and commission.
And so, the 34 of 44 innocent miners who sacrificed their lives, died in vain. Lonmin sold the company to Sibanye-Stillwater who prior to buying mine promised to take responsibilities of some consequences of the massacre.
Since then, the company been talking about providing houses for the widows and introduction of community development project in the form of vegetable gardens. Shamefully some Church leaders have been hypnotized with the shameless charade.
Is this what the deceased miners paid for with their lives? Lest we forget, it cannot be that these innocent worker’s lives were sacrificed to add value to the company’s products while their families gravely rewarded with poverty. The are truly too many unanswered questions the country’s democracy is yet to answer.
A recent visit to Lonmin Marikana mines yielded nothing strikingly new that tells the story of a transformed Lonmin community. Not even a symbol of healing and reconciliation that was proposed as a memorial site with the names of all the victims of the Marikana massacre.
Yet the company’s CEO Neal Froneman talks about Marikana renewal process inclusive of all stakeholders. The truth is that it is business as usual at Sibanye-Stillwater. The livelihood of the Bapo Ba Mogale is still defined by poverty and unemployment.
Given the situation in Marikana one cannot help but ask questions that must be answered. What happened to $150million given to Lonmin by IFC to assist the company with its safety issues and to promote sustainable economic development around the areas of Lonmin mining?
According to Tom Burgis in his book “The looting Machine” says Lonmin bosses on receiving the fund said to the world Bank’s board, “if successful, the partnership ‘will set a new standard for the mining industry’s relationship with the country and the community in South Africa and will forge a sustainable and mutually beneficial partnership with the community surrounding the operations.’”
Thinking about the historical colonial exploitation of the African resources one cannot help see Lonmin as the extension of British agenda to steal Africa’s minerals.
The money invested at Lonmin, if it were responsibly used and accounted for, the massacre would not have materialised. The reason which contributed to the miners’ strike was appalling working squalor living conditions, and local youth unemployment, including a living wage.
The scenario leading to the massacre remind us that investments in Africa are meant to smash, grab and steal the resources that ought to benefit the land owners.
Historically the government has helped protect the capital oppressors degrade people and pillage their resources. It is the same policies that enabled the police to shoot and kill 34 striking miners and contributed to extra 10 who earlier died in conflict.
One would say IFC paid for the murder of the mines to befit elite confit of a few owners. This certainly makes it not a bad idea to suggest that now is the most opportune moment to demand the return our minerals, be it gold, diamond and all platinum group metals(PGMs).
This is possible when we follow the examples of Germany which intends to return its Benin bronzes to Nigeria and Belgium which has decided that its DRC artworks stolen during the colonial rule/era should be returned to their country of origin.
Lonmin must also return the PGMs and gold that is estimated to be worth R75 billion which it deposited in the Bank of England stolen during the colonial rule in South Africa. These resources can be used for greater good to benefit the people from whom they were usurped.
Because if the Africans were not exploited and oppressed through head tax and Migratory labour system, they would not have left their homelands to be killed at Lonmin mines especially in an era heralded as democratic.
There is no doubt that if these matters are not dealt with, history is likely to repeat itself. Gaps are too wide in the process of transformation and development at Marikana nine years after that unprecedented murder of innocent poor miners of Lonmin mines.