"Deputy Speaker, honourable Deputy President and honourable member.
Yesterday, I joined political leaders and the representatives of other parties on a visit to Marikana to get a first hand account from striking workers, members of the community, union bosses, the police and Lonmin management of what really happened on Thursday last week, when 34 striking miners were killed by the police with semi-automatic rifles.
But before I the account of what we saw and heard, I want to start by expressing, on behalf of the ACDP, our heartfelt condolences to the families of the 34 miners that died in a hail of bullets, to the families of the two SAPS members who were hacked to death, and the 2 mine security officers who wereburned in their patrol car. We also wish a speedy recovery to the 78 miners who were wounded during the violent confrontation with the police.
I have heard what the Chief Whip of the ruling party said at the memorial service about two hours ago when he said that we should not try to figure out who was to blame for what happened. But I’m going to do so for the purpose of us all learning from this tragedy and also ensuring that we do not repeat the mistakes that were made.
I believe the first group of people to share the blame should be the Lonmin management that has been very insensitive to the plight of its workers. Amcu leadership made allegations that management refused to meet with them to discuss their grievances after initially promising to do so. When we met with management later in the day, AMCU’s allegations were confirmed when the Executive Vice President of Lonmin responsible for Human Capital and External Affairs told our delegation that he wanted to talk to his workers and not to Amcu’s President, Joseph Mthunjwa, because Mthunjwa was not working at the mine.
But the fact remained that Mthunjwa is Amcu’s President and was mandated by his union to represent them in talks with management. Unfortunately management refused to talk to him. This refusal obviously exacerbated the volatile situation and angered workers even more. I believe if he and his delegation were given a hearing, then the situation would either have been amicably resolved, or prevented from ending in the massacre of 34 miners. Giving an ultimatum to grieving workers who need counseling, I believe, was also insensitive.
The second to share the blame should be Amcu leadership who must plead guilty for allowing their members to carry dangerous weapons during the strike, and also for allowing them to charge at the police. Didn’t they anticipate that the police would not just sit back and watch while armed, striking protestors were charging at them with pangas, spears and other dangerous weapons, but would shoot to defend themselves?
Thirdly, the sangoma that allegedly performed rituals at the mines should take the blame for allegedly misleading angry workers into believing that his muti could make them both invisible and invincible. Gullible miners lost their lives and 78 others were injured while the sangoma, who cashed in on their misplaced beliefs and vulnerability, is richer today. South Africans must be warned against sangomas that exploit their fears and make money out of their ignorance while promising them the impossible.
Fourthly, police action on that fateful day cannot be condoned.
We want to know why the police were allowed to use live ammunition when they were ordered by way of a memorandum in December last year not to shoot at protestors with live ammunition.
Before we left Marikana, we visited the wounded in the mine hospital. Of the protestors that were shot by the police on Thursday, three of them were shot in the back as they tried to escape. The question is why did the police shoot at the protestors who were trying to run away from the bloody confrontation! We wonder how many of the 34 miners who died were shot in the back while trying to flee to safety? Only a Judicial Commission of Inquiry the President spoke about will bring answers.
Our prayer is that the Marikana incident will not polarize our nation, but that it would bring us closer to one another as we pray for healing of broken hearts and all those who were injured during last week’s tragic events.