When Alan Paton wrote “Cry, the beloved country” I doubt that he had the image of a liberation movement being the subject of people’s anguish for them to cry out in agony of disappointment and unfulfilled promises, saying, “Cry, the beloved country”.
As we commemorated the first anniversary of the Marikana Massacre, many people were heard resoundingly saying these words once penned by Paton. When last year’s so-called ‘wildcat strike’ in Marikana ended and the mineworkers went back to work, the country fell into a quandary that Paton once wrote about. He said, “In the meantime the strike is over, with a remarkably low loss of life. All is quiet, they report, all is quiet. In the deserted harbour there is yet water that laps against the quays. In the dark silent forest there is a leaf that falls. Behind the polished panelling the white ant eats away the wood. Nothing is ever quiet, except for fools.”
When the Farlam Commission of inquiry into the Marikana Massacre was announced, many in society acted foolishly, as Paton suggests, by retreating into a position of quietness about Marikana. Only a few sporadic voices lingered but none activated us into meaningful action to mend the broken community of Marikana as Paton suggested, “The tragedy is not that things are broken, the tragedy is that things are not mended again.”
The government abdicated all sense of responsibility and deferred accountability solely to the Farlam Commission. Instead of being responsive, ensuring that they address the destitution highlighted by the Bench Marks Foundation report on platinum mining communities, government dug its head into the sand. There was no evident political will to hold Lonmin accountable for not fulfilling its Corporate Social Investment mandate to the community it works in. There was no commitment to speedily improve living conditions. There were no efforts put in place to rebuild the community through social engagement activities that would renew the lost social capital of the community because of the trauma experienced – in what was a horrific replay of some tragic moments experienced during the apartheid government’s reign.
For over a century mining the mineral wealth beneath the soil, mining companies never took lessons from Paton’s counsel that, “For mines are for men, not for money. And money is not something to go mad about, and throw your hat into the air for. Money is for food and clothes and comfort, and a visit to the pictures. Money is to make happy the lives of children. Money is security, and for dreams, and for hopes, and for purposes. Money is for buying the fruits of the earth, of the land where you were born.”
The Marikana Massacre became a wakeup call for the nation; to highlight the manner in which our mines have not benefited ordinary South Africans. We got to learn of the wealth disparities whereby the CEO of Lonmin was earning over R25-million per annum, while the rock-drill-operators were earning about R80 000 per annum. The mineworkers then took it upon themselves to take up a struggle for decent wages that would give them access to the kind of lifestyle Paton promised one would acquire if they have money – decent money for affordability. The nation realised that mineworkers do not have a decent wage that affords the dignity and access to humanity in a society whose value has vastly become measured in monetary terms. Alas, we retreated into silence – foolishly – not standing up in solidarity with the workers by calling for a more proactive and humane approach to bring about justice and ensuring a mending of the broken communal ties in the communities around Marikana.
The Marikana Massacre was then allowed to descend to being a theatre for a political spectacle. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) had suddenly lost power to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU). Instead of senior ANC leaders and in particular the Minister of Mineral Resources, Susan Shabangu, acting responsibly by articulating for an agenda of peace and reconciliation in order to restore order in the community, they went on a vitriolic, venomous attack on Amcu. This severed all ties of cooperation amongst people that were to work as colleagues underground and live as neighbours in the community. This political immaturity highlighted the extent to which the liberation movement and its alliance partners are unable to stomach defeat and as a result, it brings to question their commitment to democracy.
Soon after the tragic events, the ANC Councillor in the area died after having been shot by rubber bullets. The community reacted through the ballot in the by-election by punishing the ANC, as they voted for an independent candidate to take a seat in council. This political revolt reverberated to the formation of the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) of which Gwede Mantashe (he would conjures conspiracies) has blamed a ‘dark force’ in the form of a Swedish socialist. He fingers her as perpetuating anarchy. The logical conclusion is that the ANC expected NUM to also rule until Jesus comes and any detour from this dream is anarchy and not democracy. The problem with this noise is that it was not directed at building bridges and mending the broken bonds. The end result has been the deaths of various branch and regional leaders of both Amcu and NUM, including the Sangoma from Bizana – most of these people were expected to testify before the Farlam Commission.
The commemoration of the Marikana Massacre highlighted how the ANC and NUM have growingly become isolated from the grassroots. Something the tripartite alliance promised to undo as they labeled it an unwanted “Social Distance”. The once glorious liberation movement is no longer able to engage with people on the ground, instead it sends hundreds of police officers to be on standby during a peaceful and dignified event of commemoration through its government. This sends a message that the mourners and grieving people are not trusted enough not to erupt into a frenzy of chaos and violence as they relive the pain. Marikana has awakened us to an uncomfortable reality – the ANC government has become immune to human suffering. This is evident in the government’s refusal to fund the legal representation of the surviving mineworkers that were protesting during that time. Whilst the law might be on the side of the government on this one, given the Constitutional Court’s refusal to intervene on this matter, the morally correct thing for government is to provide funding for the mineworkers.
A commission of inquiry will only deal with the legalistic interpretation of the events that led up to the Marikana Massacre and bring to light the various role players that had an influence in those horrific events and it will end off with recommendations. That is not justice enough. The Farlam Commission may conclude with possibility for retributive justice; however, there has to be a process for restorative justice – a special community based Truth and Reconciliation Commission that resembles the communal based Gacaca Courts in Rwanda used to bring about community justice for the 1994 genocide. The understanding is that people in the Marikana area need to coexist and do so meaningfully.
It is embarrassing that an ANC that even paraded Mandela in his elderly state feels no sense of obligation to epitomize his beliefs in a fair, just, communal and forgiving society. The ANC seems to be sulking for lost political ground and thus threatens social cohesion in Marikana. In essence, if this is a behaviour the ANC will replicate in all communities where it loses political currency, then the very existence of democracy in this country hangs on shaky grounds. Democracy dictates that when people lose power legitimately they must accept the outcome to its logical conclusion – being governed by those they differ with but ultimately being in harmonious coexistence with them. The ANC and NUM must give AMCU the space to organise in Marikana, they must recognise its legitimate existence, they must accept the will of the people and as thus, they must uphold themselves with integrity enough to sustain social cohesion.
If it is anything to go by Marikana continues to present a site of revolution. It is the darkest cloud during our democracy, the most significant industrial rebellion by ordinary workers asserting their will and highlighting their destitution. However, the first anniversary of the Massacre featured all major political parties – bar the ANC. It was a clear depiction of the ANC’s isolation in that community. This will soon reverberate to other communities across the country as they observe this sense of being immune to human suffering that the ANC has adopted. It is a new dawn for South Africa as the masses of our people direct their despair to the liberation movement crying, “Oh!! Cry, the beloved country”.
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