Marikana widows to sue
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Pretoria - The widows of the miners who lost their lives in the Marikana killings have slated the Farlam Commission of Inquiry for absolving senior politicians – and said heads must roll.
During a briefing with their legal representatives at Marikana on Sunday, the widows, the wounded and miners who had been arrested said they felt aggrieved that President Jacob Zuma, his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, former ministers for police Nathi Mthethwa and minerals Susan Shabangu were not held to account in any way for the tragedy three years ago.
Angry community members instructed their lawyers to launch civil claims against Ramaphosa, the police ministry and Lonmin. Ramaphosa was a Lonmin shareholder at the time the massacre of 34 miners took place.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane on Sunday also announced a push for a special Bill to compensate the families and for Parliament to be recalled from its recess for a presidential briefing.
The Marikana Support Campaign described the exoneration of Ramaphosa, Mthethwa, Shabangu, and the entire executive as “perhaps the most shocking finding of all” while strikers were “vilified”.
The attorney of relatives of the miners killed by police, Henry Msimang, held a briefing with his clients – the 270 Lonmin miners injured and/or arrested that day – on Sunday while a public meeting was also held at Marikana.
Advocate Dali Mpofu, a representative of the miners who were injured during the violence, said at that meeting he had heard complaints and concerns raised from the widows and families of the slain miners and the legal team would begin taking statements from victims in preparation for the launch of civil claims against the government.
These developments came three days after President Jacob Zuma released the commission of inquiry report into the shooting dead of the Lonmin striking miners on August 16, 2012, following the deaths of 10 people including two police officers and two mine security guards in the preceding week.
The commission’s recommendations include an inquiry into national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega’s fitness to hold office. According to the SAPS Act, the president, who appoints the SAPS boss in terms of Section 207 of the Constitution, may suspend the national police commissioner pending the inquiry after receiving the SAPS boss’s response which is due by the end of July.
The commission found no liability against Ramaphosa, then a non-executive Lonmin director, who had e-mailed Cabinet ministers days before the tragedy on August 16, 2012. On Thursday Zuma said “the commission found that the executive played no role in the decision of the police to implement the tactical option…” (which led ultimately to the miners’ deaths).
Regarding political guidance from Mthethwa, who was on record as having been briefed by Phiyega in a brief telephone conversation, the commission said it “wishes to emphasise that it is not finding that such guidance was given.
“It is, however, unable… to find positively in Minister Mthethwa’s favour on the point.”
But Maimane on Sunday said political responsibility for the killings must be assigned to Mthethwa as one of those who could have foreseen there could be bloodshed. “It seems the ANC wants us to believe it was a natural disaster, it wasn’t. It was a human disaster,” Maimane said, a day before heading to Marikana.
He also wants Phiyega to be immediately dismissed. “What further evidence do we need? She’s unfit to hold office,” he said.
This echoed earlier calls for her resignation from the IFP, Freedom Front Plus and the African Christian Democratic Party.
Maimane said the DA would lobby Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene for the Marikana Victims Compensation Special Appropriation Bill, a fair actuarial determination of past and future loss of support to which Lonmin should also contribute.
“We cannot accept that almost three years after the fact there has been a complete lack of any decisive action against those involved in the massacre. The report does little to rectify this miscarriage of justice,” Maimane said, adding that on the third anniversary of the killings on August 16, all South Africans should wear black.
Betty Gadlela, widow of Sitelega Meric Gadlela, 50, from Swaziland, who now works as a miner to support her family, said the commission had been a futile exercise.
“Our husbands died like dogs for R12 500 which is nothing considering the amount of work that is done in the mines. Our eyes are still filled with tears and we still mourn the deaths of our husbands,” Gadlela said.
“Now that I also work in the mine, I see why our husbands went on strike,” said Gadlela who was offered her job by Lonmin.
“People here work hard and earn little money. But Zuma sits in his swivelling chair and earns a lot of money,” she told the legal representatives.
Most of the miners present were scathing about Zuma and believe the commission had protected senior political heads.
For the widow of strike leader Mgcineni Noki, “the man in the green blanket”, the release of the Marikana report was like arrows piercing her heart.
Instead of offering closure, the report reopened old wounds for Noluvuyo Noki, who is heartbroken and struggling to cope with the fact that her daughter, who was just 2 at the time, will never know her father. He left four other children too.
“The police who killed my husband are given the opportunity to work and take care of their children. What about my daughter? What about the children of the other miners who were orphaned because of that shooting?” she asked.
She said she planned to sue the government, although she also wanted the person who murdered her husband to be punished.
“I was so disappointed when I heard the findings. I was hoping when they released the report they would tell us who is responsible for the deaths.
“That report is not clear. They are not saying who is responsible for this whole mess. I want someone who killed my husband to be punished.”
On Friday, Stuart Wilson, the executive director of the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (Seri), which represented most families of the killed miners, in an initial response said: “The truth is that the families of the dead are left no wiser as to their loved ones’ deaths. That brute fact can only lead to the conclusion that the commission has failed in its central task.”
But the ANC said the report had brought “to light the truth around this tragic incident” and added: “This tragedy cannot be used to further divide our country”.
It is expected that the Marikana Support Campaign, alongside the United Front and Amcu, will hold a media briefing on the report on Monday.