Marikana: we need justice, and we need change
16 August 2018
Today six years ago, 34 mineworkers were killed and 78 injured, many of them critically, because they dared to stand up and speak out about their living conditions and their wages.
These men were shot down, some at point blank range, in these fields and koppies by a government and its police force whose only response to protest is brutality.
A police force that was urged to take strong action against the protesting miners by the man who would go on to be elected ANC president, and by default our president.
This day six years ago was the shameful moment that exposed our government to the world for what it was: not the visionary, compassionate government of Nelson Mandela, but a brutal and authoritarian ANC government that won’t hesitate to turn on its own people.
I have written to President Ramaphosa and asked that he declare 16 August “Marikana Memorial Day” in honour of the workers killed here six years ago. His predecessor, Jacob Zuma, refused to do this, but given President Ramaphosa’s pledge to “play whatever role he can”, I trust that he will agree to this.
This was our country’s great moment of shame. It was a moment for deep self-reflection and remorse. “Never again” said our government, and many of us believed them. We desperately wanted to believe them.
But a few years later this belief was shattered when this same government’s callous actions led to the deaths of 143 mental health patients in Gauteng.
It is now six years since the Marikana killings, and two years since the Esidimeni tragedy was uncovered, and we are yet to see any people or government departments held responsible for all these deaths.
Why not? When will the families of those who died at the hands of this government be given closure through justice? That’s the first question we need to ask.
The second question we need to ask is: What has changed since Marikana? What have we learnt? What are we doing differently? And the answer to this is “not a lot”.
When the miners downed tools in protest back in 2012, times were bleak. Our economy was in trouble, unemployment was high and mining was losing jobs.
Today, six years later, conditions are far worse. We have new record levels of unemployment and poverty, and the mining sector, as a provider of jobs, is in deep crisis.
Implats is about to close down five mines and shed 13,000 jobs, and this week we learnt that Goldfields is looking to cut more than 1,500 jobs at its South Deep mine. South Africa used to be the largest gold producer in the world. We have now dropped all the way down to eighth place.
This is a time when we need to do all we can to keep our mines open and profitable, but instead our government is doing the exact opposite. Through bad legislation and the crony enrichment scheme they call BEE, they have made it very hard for anyone to keep a mining operation open.
While the ANC’s version of BEE has made a handful of connected people very, very rich, it has been a disaster for the thousands of workers who have lost, and will continue to lose their jobs.
Take the BEE deal that Goldfields struck to get their mining licence. Hundreds of millions of Rands ended up the pockets of ANC politicians and their friends. Even the ANC Speaker Baleka Mbete scored R25 million in what was clearly a massive bribe deal.
That’s not empowerment. That’s just plain theft, and this was confirmed in a report by a respected New York law firm. But because they gave it the name “Black Economic Empowerment” the ANC has gotten away with it for decades.
I can assure you, that won’t happen under a DA government. Our empowerment policy will be for the benefit of ordinary South Africans. Instead of making politicians and their friends filthy rich from mining shares, we will give those empowerment shares to the workers on these mines.
Another way to empower these workers is for the money that would have ended up in the pockets of connected cronies through BEE deals to instead be paid into a pension fund for mineworkers. That’s how you empower people through long-term financial independence.
And we will repeat this in every sector of the economy. Empowerment will be for those disempowered by our country’s history, and not for those with the right names and connections.
I can also assure you, a DA government will seek and deliver justice for every life that was lost at the hands of the police here in Marikana.
We will bring change to our beautiful country and return it to the path set back in 1994 by Nelson Mandela. A path which will lead to one common destiny for all South Africans.
Issued by Mmusi Maimane, Leader of the Democratic Alliance, 16 August 2018