Victims of the bloody tragedy at Marikana, in which 34 protesters were killed and at least 70 were injured by members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) during a mining strike, are still awaiting justice five years on, Amnesty International said today.
The organization is calling on the South African authorities to ensure that those suspected of criminal responsibility in relation to the 2012 killings are brought to trial, and that the victims and their families receive reparations, including adequate compensation.
“The tragedy of the Marikana killings is compounded by the shocking fact that no one responsible for the bloodshed has yet been held accountable,” said Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa.
“If the South African government wants to demonstrate that it is committed to truth and human rights, it needs to ensure that the wheels of justice start turning far faster than they have done over the past five years.”
In June 2015 the Farlam Commission, which was set up by the South African government to look into the circumstances of the killings, recommended a full investigation under the Director of Public Prosecutions, with a view to ascertaining the criminal liability of members of the SAPS who were involved in the events at Marikana.
In December 2016 President Jacob Zuma announced that criminal charges would be brought against senior police officers involved in the killings.
In March 2017, police watchdog the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) idenitifed 72 police officers for prosecution in relation to their roles in the killings at Marikana. The dockets were submitted to the National Prosecuting Authority in May.
To date, however, no police officers involved have been prosecuted.
Justice delayed – victims speak out five years later
In July 2017, Amnesty International met with some of the victims of the shootings and their families at Nkaneng informal settlement near Lonmin’s Roland shaft, where they still live in inadequate housing and squalid conditions.
In the 2016 report, ‘Smoke and Mirrors: Lonmin’s failure to address housing conditions at Marikana’, Amnesty International revealed how the company that owns the mine, UK-based Lonmin Plc, had committed to constructing 5,500 houses for workers by 2011 under its 2006 Social and Labour Plan (SLP).
The appalling housing conditions faced by Lonmin employees, along with grievances over low pay, were among the main drivers of the strike.
Many of the individuals Amnesty International met expressed their anger and disappointment that so little had changed in the five years since the killings.
Former Lonmin employee *Johannes Khwedu, whose childhood friend was killed at Marikana, said he was appalled there had been no action against the police who shot the protesting miners in front of international television cameras.
“How can they kill so many people without consequences? The government must arrest those who killed them,” he told Amnesty International.
*Justin Kolobe, a former rock drill operator at Lonmin mine who survived the shooting but was permanently paralysed, is still waiting for both justice and reparation. He lays the blame squarely on the South African government for the lack of progress.
“There is nothing happening to the people who shot us. This is the work of the government. If they don’t want anything to happen, it won’t happen. Forget it,” he said.
*Sarafina Jobe lost her husband, a Marikana employee, in the shootings and is struggling to feed and support her family without the R2850 (US$215) he would send home each month.
She told Amnesty International: “I feel a real pain sometimes when I think that he is gone. My heart beats quickly, my chest hurts and I get a headache when I think about it at night. We want compensation, and we want to know how our husbands died, who killed them and for what reason. That is the only way to recognize that we lost a soul, and that he cannot ever be replaced.”
*Their real identities have been changed to protect them from reprisal attacks.
On 16 August 2012, the South Africa Police Service (SAPS) fatally shot 34 men at Marikana. More than 70 others sustained serious injuries.
The men were Lonmin employees and had been engaged in strike and protest action over pay and conditions at the mine.
Independent and state forensic pathologists who undertook the post-mortems on the 34 men killed on 16 August found that 30 of them died as a result of injuries caused by police high-velocity ammunition from R5 assault rifles. The fatal injuries in three other cases were caused by handgun ammunition and in one case by shotgun ammunition.
The killings on 16 August came amid rising tension in the days leading up to the strike.
Three striking mineworkers were killed by police on 13 August and two Lonmin security personnel, two police officers and three non-striking mineworkers were killed – allegedly by people within the strikers’ group – between 12 and 14 August.
In August 2017, the National Prosecuting Authority postponed indefinitely the trial of 17 strike leaders linked to the killings that took place between 12 and 14 August 2012.