Six years after the Marikana massacre, in which police gunned down 34 striking Lonmin miners, the living conditions of those who survived and others living in the platinum mining belt haven’t changed much.
Lonmin’s promise to improve housing and the infrastructure, in terms of its Social and Labour Plan, hasn’t been fulfilled.
Independent Media visited the area this week to find corrugated iron shacks littering the landscape and raw sewage running in the streets. However, some shacks now have electricity and taps in the yards.
Resident Elma Vice, who has been there since 2003, said Lonmin had abandoned them since that fateful day.
“They supplied electricity and water taps in 2014 and we’ve never heard anything from Lonmin since.
“We are in danger as we are still in shacks and the streets are filthy. We don’t have a truck to collect rubbish every week. That’s why this place is dirty. They never explained why they didn’t build us houses. Actually, they think we are pigs,” said the 41-year-old.
Marikana grabbed global headlines on August 16, 2012, when miners striking for a living wage of R12500 were mowed down by the police.
This was after current president Cyril Ramaphosa, a Lonmin shareholder at the time, called on those in power to contain the strike and take “concomitant action”.
A commission of inquiry into the shooting ensued and the chairperson, retired judge Ian Farlam, said the mine’s failure to improve workers’ housing contributed to the deaths.
In 2006, the company committed itself to build 5500 houses for workers and upgrade the single-sex, barracks-style hostels into family or bachelor units by 2011. This was in the company’s Social and Labour Plan submitted to the Department of Mineral Resources when it applied for mining rights.
By 2011, it had only built three show houses and converted 60 out of 114 hostels. According to the Farlam report, in 2012 thousands of Lonmin employees were still living in squalor in informal settlements.
Lonmin spokesperson Wendy Tlou cited discussions led by the local and provincial government to make Nkaneng, the area where the miners were shot, a formal settlement. Tlou said Lonmin had made improvements in the communities.
“Lonmin also installed 11 new high mast lights and upgraded four existing ones. We improved electricity supply by installing 11 new transformers,” she added.
Nutty Matwayi, 34, another resident and Lonmin worker, said the community had given up on the company. He said their issues had been ignored.
“Life is hard here. We don’t see a future or development in this area. Lonmin is also quiet about the situation but they should clean up this area.”
Another resident, who identified herself as Afikile, said they were fed up with the bad conditions. “Look at these streets, there’s running sewage everywhere. We are tired of this life.”
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) spokesperson Jimmy Gama said the government should improve the conditions in Nkaneng, which is under the government’s jurisdiction. “That place is not suitable for people to live in,” he said.
The Sunday Independent