The sight of a blue police uniform is a disturbing reminder to Sebolai Liau that someone wearing the same apparel pulled a trigger that released a bullet that took his father’s life.
What makes it even worse is knowing that none of those who sprayed bullets in the direction of his father, Janaveke Raphael Liau, and 33 other striking Lonmin mining company workers in Marikana near Rustenburg on August 16 2012 have been prosecuted for the killings that shook the country.
Liau was only 14 on the day his world changed dramatically. Eight years later, he remembers exactly what happened and how it affected his life.
He and other family members of the victims joined unions, human rights activists and other organisations, as well as mine workers themselves, in the eighth commemoration of the deaths of 34 mine workers who were killed during a wage strike.
Two police officers, two Lonmin security guards and six mine workers, including non-striking ones believed to have been killed for reporting for duty, were killed in the days before August 16, bringing to 44 the number of people who lost their lives in less than one week in Marikana.
NON-MOVING WHEELS OF JUSTICE
On the day of the massacre, Liau realised something was wrong as he approached his home in rural Lesotho and saw family members and neighbours sitting around. He spotted his uncle crying among them, but had no inkling that his father had been killed until the terrible news was broken to him.
“There I was, instantly fatherless. My family and our extended family had been robbed of a breadwinner and a loving, caring father. Nothing’s ever been the same since that moment,” he said in a speech during the commemoration on Thursday, which was organised by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of SA and the C-19 People’s Coalition on Thursday.
Liau, who turns 22 this year and is in his second year of study for an accounting degree at the University of Johannesburg – was joined by Nowili Palesa Nungu, who also lost his father, Jackson Lehupa, at Marikana.
AMCU’S MATHUNJWA CRITICISES MADONSELA
Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), reiterated the complaint of the deceased mine workers’ children that there had been no justice for the killings.
“Where is justice for Marikana?” he asked during his union’s memorial lecture on Friday. He said the mine’s new owners, Sibanye-Stillwater, had not only acquired Lonmin’s operations last year, but had also inherited what took place in Marikana.
“We used to call it the Lonmin massacre, but Lonmin is now gone. Sibanye-Stillwater took over and now we must call it the Sibanye-Stillwater massacre,” said Mathunjwa.
He criticised former Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela just a few hours before she delivered a Marikana memorial lecture organised by Sibanye-Stillwater on Friday.
Amcu, he said, had been hosting commemorations every year since 2013 and had been joined by Lonmin in recent ones, so he did not understand why Sibanye-Stillwater had held a parallel memorial lecture.
He said Madonsela had “never set her foot in Marikana to pay homage to those who died there”, but was nevertheless giving a memorial lecture organised by the mining company.
“When the master calls, they run, but when the downtrodden call, no one runs,” he said.
In response, Madonsela said she understood Mathunjwa’s “anger and need to lash out, because he was there. The pain is still raw.”
It was not true, she added, that she had never been to Marikana.
“I’ve been to the Marikana region during my numerous trips investigating the Bapo ba Mogale stolen monies and allegations of being short-changed on royalties by Lonmin and others. I wasn’t aware that the memorial lecture wasn’t a joint venture,” she said.
Madonsela said that, in most cases, those who criticised colonialism had “the most colonised minds”.
Regarding Mathunjwa’s comment about the “master calling”, she said: “Just because colonialists imposed themselves and called themselves our masters in the past, we needn’t continue wearing the chain of regarding white people as masters and black people as servants.
“Should I be invited by Mathunjwa, I’d be happy to come … He’s never done so [and] Sibanye-Stillwater are the only ones who have,” she said.
“My hope is to assist with remembering, healing and renewal. To do so, we need all hands on deck.”
Explaining why Sibanye-Stillwater had held a separate commemoration event, the company’s chief executive officer, Neil Froneman, said unions had been part of the process until last weekend. He was not sure, he added, why they had chosen not to participate.
“We’ve tried our best to cast our invitation net as widely as possible,” he added.
WHAT WENT WRONG?
In her lecture, Madonsela said those killed in Marikana did “not have to die, but they did” in a massacre that shook the world.
“It was 18 years into constitutional democracy; 18 years into implementing a Constitution that commits us to healing the divisions of the past and building a society founded on democratic values, social justice and human rights. What went wrong?” she asked.
“Marikana happened because we forgot to remember. We forgot to remember our ugly, unjust past and the legacy it left us … We forgot to heal and we focused on renewal. A renewal without a foundation can’t work.”