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South Africans criticize Marikana report findings

Isaac Mugabi
June 26, 2015

South Africans have reacted angrily after the Marikana massacre report did not directly blame any official for the deaths of mineworkers at the Lonmin platinum mines three years ago.


The 600-page report by an inquiry commission puts much blame on the police for acting with heavy-handedness against the miners who were protesting for higher wages.

The report said that police used excessive force when they shot dead 34 miners at the Lonmin platinum mine, Marikana town, on August 16, 2012. But ordinary South Africans are now livid that no official has been blamed for the deaths of the miners.

"How can 34 people die and no one is responsible for their deaths? That is very irresponsible of our government. I am very disappointed," Robert Mabaso told DW and added that the investigation was a waste of time and money.

"At least someone had to be held accountable because somebody must have given the instructions to shoot. They want the poor commissioner to come forward and answer. What must she answer? She was sitting in Pretoria at that time," Masabo said.

"I'm very angry, people must not die like ants. Am very angry," he added.

The commissioner he is referring to is National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega.

Funny Rens, a resident of Johannesburg, was short of words when he spoke to DW's Thuso Khumalo.

"I don't know who's to blame but to me it's not right. The president of AMCU isn't guilty and nor are the police. So who is guilty? I think they have to get to the bottom of this issue and tell us who is responsible because they were using taxpayers' money during the inquiry," Rens said.

A group of striking mineworkers
Striking miners carried traditional weapons during confrontations with policeImage: Reuters

Miners' unions partly blamed

The report castigated the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) for failing to "exercise effective control" over their members "in ensuring that their conduct was lawful and did not endanger the lives of others."

Despite the blame for failure to prevent its members from becoming rowdy and riotous, NUM welcomed the report. The union's National Secretary for Health and Safety, Eric Gcilitshana, told DW that they are doing their best to work on the mistakes committed.

"We acknowledge that there were grey areas identified by the report. We are doing our best to see how we can improve where we have made mistakes and welcome the criticisms."

"This should never happen again and we believe that investigations into the killings prior to and after August 16 should be started so that lessons are learnt that nobody can be violent and intimidate others. That is unacceptable in a democratic government," he added.

Cyril Ramaphosa - here or villain?

There was wide speculation that South Africa's Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa would be implicated by the report. But as it turned out, the accusations levied against him during the hearings were "groundless", according to the report.

Ramaphosa is considered to be among the most powerful and richest men in South Africa. It is also believed that he could be the next president of the ‘rainbow nation' when current president Jacob Zuma's second and final term ends. Ramaphosa's popularity is largely attributed to his activism during the ANC's struggle to end apartheid in South Africa.

Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa's vice president
South Africa's VP Cyril Ramaphosa is alleged to have pressurised the police into taking actionImage: DW/A. Lattus

According to Daniel Silke, a political analyst based in Cape Town, there was insufficient evidence to show that Ramaphosa was directly linked to the actual actions surrounding the deaths of the miners at Marikana.

"For the deputy president, he escapes the harshest of judgments in a sense that it puts him back on his political career but other cabinet ministers have got off clearly lightly," Silke said.

Life remains the same in Marikana

Almost three years after the deaths of the miners, little has changed in the town that has become a symbol of post-apartheid hardship and inequalities.

The miners still live in shacks like before. They hoped that the inquiry into the deaths of their colleagues and loved ones would lead to some form of monetary compensation.

Rehad Desai, who works with the Marikana Support Campaign, an organization that advocates on behalf of mineworkers and affected communities, told DW that they were disappointed that the report exonerated Cyril Ramaphosa and police commissioners of any wrongdoing.

"We would have liked to see National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega recommended for dismissal and all other policemen that had been mentioned or suspended at the very least," Desai said.

"There is clear evidence that the police minister colluded with his commissioners and had knowledge of the several phone calls to the provincial commissioner."

Thuso Khumalo in Johannesburg contributed to this article

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