POLITICS

Marikana 5 Years After The Massacre: "Nothing Has Changed"

"We hear nothing about Cyril Ramaphosa or Lonmin being charged. We hear nothing said about the police," says released Marikana housing activist.

10/08/2017 14:57 SAST | Updated 12/08/2017 10:38 SAST

ANALYSIS
August 10, 2017, marks five years since unrest at the Lonmin mine in Marikana set in motion days of violence and bloodshed, as protracted struggles by workers for a living wage descended into national tragedy.

Violence persisted throughout a bloody weekend and into the new week -- claiming the lives of miners, policemen and security guards -- and ultimately culminating on August 16 in the single most lethal use of force against civilians in South Africa in decades.

Five years on, the Marikana massacre remains a blight on the South African conscience, remembered as a bloody display of the country's rampant, long-standing contradictions and broken promises of a better life for those on whom the economy has been built.

The living conditions of the thousands of miners and broader community in Marikana, which gave rise to extended struggles for a living wage in the first place, were not in aberration in the South African context in 2012 and neither still in 2017.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
A woman gestures at Lonmin's Marikana mine in South Africa's North West Province, September 15, 2012. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

Two weeks ahead of official commemorations on August 16, released Marikana housing activist Napoleon Webster lamented the state of living conditions in the area.

"Whatever happened on the 16th of August 2012 is still happening daily. Nothing has changed."

Webster said he has been targeted for continued activism in Marikana, especially for access to housing.

Speaking days after being released on bail following 202 days in jail on charges of murder, Webster again professed his innocence and reiterated that his arrest was politically motivated, citing CCTV evidence and multiple witnesses insisting on his absence at the scene of the crime.

Webster told the Mail & Guardian in June that it was not the first time police had come after him, saying it was "because of the trouble I cause for the ANC and the government". A well-known activist in Marikana, he led an occupation of government-built houses in Marikana's Extension 2 on land donated by Lonmin.

"In 2016, when Jacob [Zuma] was meant to give out houses in Marikana, I mobilised the community and we chased him and the premier away, then we allocated ourselves the houses," he said on Wednesday.

Stringer / Reuters
Miners from Marikana, their families and supporters march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, to protest against the government's lack of funding for the Marikana commission of inquiry September 12, 2013.

'Marikana's housing crisis is destabilising the community'

Days after his release from prison, Webster told press activists he would "continue to fight to bring about social and economic justice for the mineworkers who were brutally gunned down by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Lonmin for profits".

Activists "would not rest", he said, until Lonmin honours "their mining obligation to build 5,500 houses" and mining companies across the board comply with the Mining Charter.

Poor living conditions and housing scarcity in Marikana remains "destabilising" five years after the massacre, he said.

"The few houses that we have, everybody is fighting for them," he said. "There is a community of Tharisa Mine that was forcefully eradicated... they had proper houses and were moved into shacks by the mining company and nobody is talking about it, just us on social media," he said.

People were living in shacks without water and electricity, and community protests were not reported in the media. "There's no crèche, no cleaning, there's no school... they were forced into those shacks... there are no roads," he said.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Members of a mining community sit outside a shack in Nkaneng township, Marikana's informal settlement, in Rustenburg, South Africa, April 1, 2014.

'Cyril is the darling of the media'

In light of ramped-up campaigning ahead of the ANC's presidential election, Webster appealed to news outlets to "avoid bias" and not allow Ramaphosa the become the "darling of the media".

"I don't know whether you're [the media] taking part in him trying to make sure he becomes president, forgetting Marikana," he said.

"Seventeen miners went on trial [recently] but we hear nothing about Cyril Ramaphosa being charged. We hear nothing about Lonmin being charged. We hear nothing said about the police. We know the business community loves Cyril, but we don't want him in Marikana," he said.

According to The Sunday Independent, Ramaphosa is reportedly expected to visit Marikana for the fifth annual commemoration service to interact with families of the victims as part of an initiative spearheaded by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

But the widows of the slain mineworkers, like Webster, don't want him there: