National 15.8.2016 09:44 pm

Marikana stage set for commemorations

Picture: ANA

Picture: ANA

Although government appears to be giving it the cold shoulder, the people near the killing fields say they’ll never forget.

Loud music echoed from a giant stage erected at the Marikana koppie in the Nkaneng informal settlement near Rustenburg on Monday as preparations for the fourth commemorations of the Marikana tragedy were being finalised.

A few metres away, community members sang along to the loud music as they went on their daily chores in the shacks making up the Nkaneng informal settlement.

Maritha Mabasa said that, in August 2012, she had recently moved to Marikana, from the Free State, when the wage dispute degenerated into chaos.

“What happened there remains vivid in my mind. Who would forget the murder of more than 30 people in one day? And my heart is sore,” said the mother of three, pointing at the koppie.

Picture: ANA

Picture: ANA

At the nearby shopping centre, hawker Thirani Mvundla said he would close his small business on Tuesday and join the commemorations.

“It is critical for us, the residents of Marikana, to gather once every year, at least, and take stock. These mineworkers who died were not only fighting for their families, they were demanding better wages for everyone,” said Mvundla, who has since left his job in the mines.

Mabasa and Mvundla are some of the Marikana residents set to converge at the small rocky mountains on Tuesday morning to pay respects to the fallen miners.

The area remains largely underdeveloped, with taxis moving along dirt roads passing through Nkaneng, packed with commuters. The number of shacks has increased as more people seek greener pastures in the sleepy mining town.

Nkaneng informal settlement is one of many informal settlements surrounding platinum mines in Rustenburg in North West. Impoverished mine workers have to live in these shacks if they are to claim a “living out allowance” to beef up their meagre wages.

Since the 2012 tragedy the shacks have been electrified and water tanks have been placed nearby for communal use. Renting a shack costs about R500 a month.

On 10 August, 2012, thousands of Lonmin platinum mineworkers downed tools when employers said they could not afford their demands for a “living wage” of R12 500 per month. Employers described the strike as illegal but workers were unrelenting and the strike persisted.

During the lead-up to the shooting on August 16, there were reports of intimidation and assault between members of rival unions – the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

Ten people, including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards, were killed as violence escalated in the area.

On August 16, police shot dead 34 striking mineworkers at a koppie near Nkaneng. More than 70 others were injured.

A report by the global human rights group Amnesty International released on Monday painted a gloomy picture for mineworkers in Marikana.

“The catastrophic events of August 2012 should have been a decisive wake-up call to Lonmin that it must address these truly appalling living conditions,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s director for southern Africa.

“The company’s failure to improve employees’ housing is baffling and irresponsible in the extreme. Lonmin is aware that dire housing contributed to the unrest four years ago that ultimately led to the death of dozens of miners.”

Tuesday marks the fourth anniversary of the Marikana tragedy. Mineworkers continue to fight for a R12 500 minimum wage and also for August 16 to be declared a public holiday in South Africa.

After the tragedy Marikana became a political hotbed, with opposition parties blaming the ruling ANC for the worst single act of police brutality since South Africa became a democracy in 1994.

It was not surprising that during the local municipal elections on August 3 the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) won Ward 26 of the Madibeng local municipality, which includes Nkaneng. The EFF also unseated the ANC in Ward 32 of Rustenburg.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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