In preparation for the first commemoration of the Marikana crisis, which saw 44 people die in Marikana, North West, in August last year, during a violent wage related protest, Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) leader Joseph Mathunjwa wrote a letter inviting the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) President Senzeni Zokwana to address the event. As a caring and revolutionary trade union, NUM welcomed the invite. The platform would allow these rival trade unions to, amongst others, share the stage for the very first time and build the first steps towards a peaceful, matured relationship.
In a surprising turn of events, newly established trade union AMCU folded its arms and allowed an unknown, unregistered and cabalistic grouping, which calls itself the Marikana Support Group, to take over the entire coordination of the Marikana commemoration event. This is despite AMCU, NUM, United Association of South Africa (UaSA), and other stakeholders initially agreeing that the office of Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe would organise the commemorations.
Expectedly, NUM pulled out of the celebrations. With the so-called Marikana Support Group running the show, the event was turned into a theatre stage for opposition parties, at the expense of peace, stability and harmony. I really wonder if the legitimate families of the deceased did agree to this arrangement, where the names of their loved ones were used by selfish politicians to score political points.
In African culture, the family of the deceased are authorities of first instance when the names of their departed loved ones are to be used. No memorial service, or any similar event, can be organised without the involvement of the family. The family referred to here is not limited to the spouse and children of the deceased alone. Such a family expands to uncles, aunts, cousins, parents, and other elders in the broader lineage. This family must jealously defend the integrity of the family name by not allowing such a name to be misused by any person or organisation.
The event organised by the Marikana Support Group was not in honour of the 44 deceased people. It was a clearly orchestrated political rally in support of political parties and a particular protest movement which are in opposition to the ruling ANC and government. It cannot be proved that those who died in the conflict were all opposed to government. In fact, we do not even know which political parties they belonged to.
The minority parties that were given a platform at the commemoration are all wrong to claim the souls of those who died in the tragedy. The conflict that ran between 11 and 16 August 2012 in Marikana was not in opposition to government or the ANC. It was a wage negotiation that went wrong. So, all parties, including the families, must rally behind the vision of finding a lasting solution to this problem. Many have been affected by this tragedy. To organise a bash of opposition parties can never be a solution to this lasting impasse.
The Marikana crisis cannot, and must not, be limited to the 16th of August alone. Beginning in August the 11th, what started as an innocent wage dispute delivered the country’s greatest tragedy since the 1994 breakthrough. Between the 11th and the 14th of August, 10 people, including at least four miners, two police officers, and two security guards, were killed in the same labour dispute that claimed the other 34 victims on 16 August. Any attempt to isolate the killing of 10 people from the whole Marikana crisis is inhumane and insensitive, to say the least. It borders on cheap politicking at the expense of the objective truth.
The 10 people who died before 16 August were human beings with families, friends, spouses and children. They too deserve to be remembered. They are no less of human beings because some of them were employed by the state or the mining company in question. The Marikana situation is very sensitive and does not need selfish political infants who thrive on anarchy and chaos. The Marikana crisis can really do without those whose sole preoccupation is scattering negative sentiment around.
All those who died in the impasse, including those who perished before August the 16th, should really be remembered as we attempt to work together to ensure that never again must a Marikana repeat itself in our beloved Republic. The families of the deceased must collectively denounce the childish misuse of the names of their loved ones for political ends. All parties must come together to ensure that lessons learnt from the tragedy prevents a repeat of the Marikana crisis. Working together, we can achieve this objective!
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