Marikana: The mining sector needs to transform, says Mokonyane

A man tried to stab the City Press photographer during the sixth Marikana commemoration event. Picture: Tebogo Letsie
A man tried to stab the City Press photographer during the sixth Marikana commemoration event. Picture: Tebogo Letsie

Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane says the mining sector must transform to ensure that workers’ rights, dignity, health and safety are not compromised.

Reflecting on the tragic events that happened in Marikana six years ago, the minister said the government had started implementing the recommendations made by the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.

In August 2012, 44 people died following days of violence during a protracted wage strike by workers at the Lonmin platinum mine in the North West.

The Marikana Commission of Inquiry, led by Judge Ian Gordon Farlam, was established to investigate the circumstances that led to this tragedy and what needed to be done to prevent a recurrence.

The inquiry made numerous recommendations. These included compensation for the injured and their families, examining the procedures of Public Order Policing, and preparing valid cases for prosecution, according to applicable laws.

The state paid R67 million to the families who lost their breadwinners six years ago.

Mokonyane said the government was awaiting the response from the legal fraternity that represented the victims’ families with regards to the various offers that were made for compensation.

She said the government’s plans to improve the lives of South Africans included rural development, economic development, building sustainable, integrated, safe and secure human settlements.

“Also of importance is sorting out issues under the Labour Relations Act on the employer/employee relationships. Strengthening the bodies and structures of engagement between the worker and employer is quite important. Transformation of the mining sector is also important.

“Beyond the commission’s recommendations on what government needs to do, our own vision of the South Africa we want speaks to interventions that will make sure that events that happened in Marikana do not happen again. We regret the tragic events that happened,” she said.

On August 16 every year since, people have gathered at the infamous koppie — where about 3 000 strikers gathered five years ago and is the scene of the first killing of 16 mineworkers — to commemorate those who lost their lives. Picture: Tebogo Letsie

On Thursday, the state detailed the progress that had been made in implementing the recommendations of the commission.

“The South African Police Service has also made great progress in strengthening the capacity of the public order policing. A total of 3 825 members from Public Order Policing have participated in basic training and in crowd management. The SAPS will be increasing the number of the police to be trained in Public Order Policing this year,” the Government Communication and Information System said.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate also completed its investigations into the killing of three miners and two policemen. The policemen and the three miners were killed in an incident on August 13 2012.

Six suspects were arrested and three were summonsed. One suspect was charged for both cases.

“The suspects face charges of murder, defeating the ends of justice, attempted murder, and contravention of section 6 (2) of the Commissions Act and contravention of section 29 (1) of the Ipid Act,” the Government Communication and Information System said.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday the Institute of Security Studies released a new report titled The sound of gunfire: The police shootings at Marikana Scene 2. The report concluded that the South African Police Services could not provide any evidence that the striking mine workers were attacking the police, as was previously claimed by the SAPS.

Read: Police at Marikana were ‘reckless and irresponsible’ – new report

Mining communities living conditions

In 2012, an inter-ministerial committee for the special presidential package for the revitalisation of distressed mining communities project – chaired by the minister in the presidency for planning, monitoring and evaluation – was set up.

Its mandate was to oversee the implementation of integrated and sustainable human settlements, improve living and working conditions of mine workers and to determine the development path of mining towns and the historic labour sending areas.

“The human settlements department launched a R700 million housing project for Marikana. To date, 544 housing units have been completed. Substantial progress has also been made in the upgrading of informal settlements in mining communities,” the Government Communication and Information System said.

In addition, the government and mining companies in Rustenburg, Madibeng region, are engaged in private-public partnerships in sharing bulk and reticulation infrastructure in order to deliver basic services such as water and sanitation to mine communities.

Six years ago on this day, 34 protesting miners were killed by a hail of bullets during the 2012 violent wage strikes at the Lonmin mine in Marikana. Today a commemorative event was held for those who lost their lives. Picture: Tebogo Letsie

The mining companies involved in this partnership include Lonmin and Samancor (Western Chrome Mines).

“Partnerships in education are equally important to improve the lives of mining communities.

“Lonmin officially handed over the New Marikana Primary School to the North West department of education and sport development and the Marikana community in March this year. The school has all the necessary educational facilities and provides a conducive environment for pupils to learn,” the Government Communication and Information System said.

Four one-stop centres have been established to offer integrated health and social services to both active and ex-mine workers

“The government has provided support to ensure that unclaimed pensions and provident funds are paid to ex-mineworkers. Initially, the backlog was R9 billion in 2014 but has been reduced considerably to R4.5 billion,” the Government Communication and Information System said.

The government also mentioned the newly introduced concept of a national minimum wage, which was widely supported by organised business, labour and community.

“Once implemented, the national minimum wage will immediately benefit and uplift the socioeconomic status of up to 6.4 million workers in our country,” the Government Communication and Information System said. –

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