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Marikana Massacre: Lack of accountability for victims is a recurring theme in SA, says Amnesty International

White crosses and people sitting on a hill

Families and friends of Marikana miners who were killed by the police gathered at a koppie during the cleansing ceremony previously held in Wonderkop, Marikana, near Rustenburg. File Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Published Aug 16, 2023


As South Africa marks a sombre 11th anniversary since the Marikana massacre took place near Rustenburg in August 2012, Amnesty International South Africa says a culture of impunity has been allowed to continue in the country, with no one being held accountable for the loss of life.

Amnesty International South Africa’s executive director Shenilla Mohamed said the time has arrived for answers to be demanded regarding the lack of meaningful prosecutions of the alleged perpetrators.

“The lack of accountability for victims and their families is a recurring theme in South Africa. We need to demand answers as to why it is taking 11 years in the case of the Marikana massacre for there to be any prosecutions, and ultimately accountability for the brutal loss of life,” she said.

On August 16, 2012, 34 miners were killed and more than 70 wounded near the mine in Marikana, when police used live ammunition to disperse a group of striking protesters.

At least 34 protesting Lonmin mineworkers were gunned down on August 16, 2012, yet there have been no prosecutions. File Picture: Tiro Ramatlhatse

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed.

Mohamed said the actions of the police on August 16, 2012 cannot be condoned.

“These actions were unlawful under South African domestic law obliging police officers to act within a framework of minimum force, and under international law and standards, in particular the obligation to respect and protect life.

“The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms allows for the use of firearms only in defence against imminent threat of death or serious injury and only when less extreme methods are insufficient,” she said.

While some officers are facing charges for the events that took place before 16 August 2012, no police officer has been charged for the killing of 34 mine workers on that fateful day.

Amnesty International South Africa said it has written to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in the North West, asking for answers as to why there have been no prosecutions, 11 years after the massacre.

“The Ipid told Amnesty International South Africa that in relation to the shooting on 16 August at what is known as scene 1 and 2, the role of every single member of the police that was deployed in Marikana on the date in question was being investigated. Ipid said these were more or less 600 police officers,” said Mohamed.

The cases have now been transferred to the North West director of public prosecutions for further handling.

“The NPA has not responded to Amnesty International South Africa’s questions as to why no one had been prosecuted to date,” said Mohamed.

She said the Ipid “tried to justify” the delay in justice, by saying that when the Farlam commission of inquiry into the shooting, started in 2012, all Marikana investigations were ordered to stop, and only resumed in 2016.

“We made it clear to Ipid and the NPA that waiting 11 years for accountability was unacceptable. The excuse that investigations were stopped until 2016, is also not a good enough excuse, it still means that there have been seven years with no prosecutions and no accountability.

“The victims and their families cannot be made to wait another year, never mind another 11 years for justice. This will just result in the continued lack of accountability for the unlawful killings by police,” said Mohamed said.

Earlier, counsel for miners who survived the tragic shooting, Andries Nkome said the victims of the tragedy might not get the apology they were hoping for.

Nkome insisted that his clients regard President Cyril Ramaphosa as one of the architects behind the massacre. He said so far, the miners argue that Ramaphosa’s apologies have been veiled and half-hearted.

At the time of the tragedy, Ramaphosa was serving as a member of the ANC’s national executive committee, a Lonmin shareholder and a non-executive board member.

“I think as time goes by, our clients start to lose hope in the fact that those that they believe caused the massacre will apologise and it is for that reason that they become steadfast in their belief that the courts are the only forum for hope, out of which they will be able to get apologies given.

“They (miners who survived the tragedy) say that the massacre took place as a result of the characterisation of their labour dispute with Lonmin by President Cyril Ramaphosa when he said their acts were dastardly criminal and the police must act with concomitant action.

He went on and gave an apology, though it was veiled. It was not unconditional and so it is for that reason that they (miners) are pressing forward hoping to get justice someday in the future,” said Nkome.

He said the surviving miners want an apology, compensation and criminal liability for the people who authored the tragic events, including politicians, Lonmin mine officials and the police officers.