9 years after the Marikana massacre: Families and community still waiting for justice
16 August marks the 9th anniversary of the Marikana massacre. This year’s commemorations in South Africa, like last year’s, take place in a special context. The third wave of the Corona pandemic, which has been underway in South Africa since mid-June and has claimed many victims, and the measures adopted by the government to contain it, do not allow for large events. The commemorative events will be held mainly online and if analogue, then only on a small scale. More serious than the Corona pandemic for this year’s context in South Africa is the death of 332 people in riots between 9 and 16 July.
More than a month later, the country is still in shock. The dead of 16 August 2012 and the victims of the early July 2021 riots may have lost their lives in different contexts and under diverse circumstances, but they all have something in common: protests against poor living conditions, poverty and hunger. It is the poverty and naked hunger that worsened during the Corona pandemic and the related successive lockdowns that led family mothers and fathers, as well as youths, to take the difficult step of illegally scavenging food from supermarkets for their families, knowing full well that the scavenged food would only last for a few days and would not solve their problems in the long run.
Without this naked hunger, the Zuma supporters’ protest and the chaos they planned would have been contained. The precarisation of a large part of the population, the tightening of the lockdown without extending social benefits has turned Zuma’s prison sentence into a powder keg. Yet people know full well that their precarity is also linked to the Zuma administration’s decade lost to corruption and incompetence. This precarity can also be observed in Marikana. Nine years after the murder of the 34 miners, the mining companies have let down the communities living in their catchment area. Their promises have remained empty words, a strategy to improve living conditions in and around Marikana is still lacking.
Even the miners have had to be content with cosmetic changes since the massacre, which customers of platinum from Marikana like BASF use to justify their “business as usual”. It seems that Sibanye-Stillwater, the company that bought out Lonmin two years ago, and other mining companies in South Africa are not accountable to anyone except their shareholders. Nine years ago, there was an expectation that one lesson from the massacre would be that the state would tighten its control over the mining sector so that mining companies would do more to improve the lives of their workers and the communities around them. With regard to the customers of the platinum from Marikana, the expectation was formulated that they would use their room for manoeuvre and above all their market power to exert pressure on the supplier in the sense of the formulated goals. None of this has happened. We owe it to those murdered on 16 August 2012 that their struggle is not forgotten and we will always remind all those involved until there is a fundamental change in conditions in Marikana.