Marikana killings: Widows plead for $9.1m from BASF

Johannesburg - BASF SE will face renewed scrutiny at Friday’s annual shareholder meeting about its sourcing of platinum from a South African mine where strikers were shot dead by police in 2012 - this time from two of the widows.

Agnes Thelejane and Ntombizolile Mosebetsane, widows of mineworkers at Lonmin’s platinum mine at Marikana, north-west of Johannesburg, will ask Ludwigshafen, Germany-based BASF to pay €8m ($9.1m) into a fund to support the families of dead miners, South African bishop Johannes Seoka said at a press conference in Frankfurt on Thursday. They will be accompanied by Seoka, who raised the issue at last year’s meeting.

The public plea highlights the challenge of controlling suppliers while promoting humanitarian credentials, which BASF has actively done. Lonmin, the world’s third-biggest platinum producer by volume, supplies BASF with the metal to make catalytic converters used in cars. Strikes at the Johannesburg-based miner in August, 2012, culminated in 44 deaths at Marikana and a government-commissioned investigation into the incident criticised Lonmin’s actions during the conflict.

“They’ve got a moral obligation,” Seoka said of BASF. “We are determined and committed to the cause. Many people have died in those mines. Many people have died in the struggle to get employment, to get out of poverty.”

Not guilty

While the German company is “shocked and saddened” by the tragedy, it isn’t “guilty by association”, chief executive officer Kurt Bock said in response to questions from reporters in February. The company also conducted a “thorough” assessment of the issues raised and took a number of steps to ensure that Lonmin is fully compliant with BASF’s code of conduct for suppliers, according to BASF’s website.

The Association of Ethical Shareholders Germany, a group working with Seoka, filed a counter-motion for the annual meeting asking for the €8m to be taken out of the €2.6bn set aside for dividends. BASF will recommend that shareholders vote against it, the company said on its website. Bock rejected calls last year to pay into a fund for the miners’ families.

Thelejane said that her husband had been a sub-contractor for Lonmin and for that reason the South African company has refused her financial help beyond paying for the burial.

“We have fulfilled our promise to employ the widows or relatives of the deceased miners,” Lonmin spokesperson Sue Vey said in an e-mailed statement. “All statutory payments have been made to the families of the deceased miners and Lonmin continues to seek ways of assisting these families.”

BASF uses platinum, palladium and rhodium in its catalytic converters used in cars. The company bought €450m worth of precious metals from Lonmin in 2014 and has had a close relationship for about 30 years, Bock said at the shareholder meeting last year.

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