The South African Federation of Trade Unions welcomes the arrest of seven senior police officials and two security guards who appeared in the Rustenburg Magistrate’s Court today, in connection with events around the 2012 Marikana massacre – but deplores the fact that this is only happening five and a half years after the events occurred.
Former North West Deputy Police Commissioner William Mpembe is one of six men facing charges of murder in connection with the 2012 Marikana murders. He is charged with the murders of Thembelakhe Mati‚ Semi Jokanisi‚ Hendrick Monene and Sello Lepaaku on 13 August 2012‚ while the other five are charged with the murder of Phumzile Sokhanyile.
Mpembe further faces six counts of attempted murder and, along with Gideon van Zyl‚ Dingaan Madoda‚ and Oupa Pule‚ with defeating the ends of justice after they failed to report the death in custody of Modisaotsile Sagalala on 16 August 2012. They allegedly attempted to pass on Sagala’s death as that of Andrew Saffey‚ who died in hospital on August 16 2012.
The former NW deputy police commissioner is further accused of contravening section 6 (3) of the Commissions Act after he allegedly gave false evidence at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry that Sagalala had died in a police truck on August 16 2012.
Some charges relate to an incident on 13 August 2012 in which striking miners were stopped by police while making their way from the mines to the Marikana koppie and three mine workers and two police officers were killed.
This was three days before 16 August 2012, when police shot dead 34 striking workers and wounded many more. 16 were shot at the Marikana Koppie and a further 18 fleeing workers at another nearby small Koppie. This was the biggest mass killing in post-apartheid South Africa.
Some were hiding behind rocks and others had been trying to surrender when the police killed them in cold blood, most of them shot in the back. The Farlam Commission confirmed that “the protesters were brutally hunted down and assassinated by police officers”.
In the days beforehand another 10 workers had been killed incidents of mainly intra-worker violence, which brought the death toll to 44, with 38 wounded, and these arrests relate to one of these incidents.
If that is so, then these arrests must not mark the end of the process to bring offenders to justice but the curtain-raiser for the arrest of all those responsible for the main massacre, 72 of whom have been investigated by the IPID.
It would however be a travesty of justice if only those who pulled the triggers were prosecuted, while the masterminds behind what was clearly a well-planned operation, and those who gave the police the order to shoot, were not also arrested and punished.
President Ramaphosa has apologised for the manner in which the Marikana massacre unfolded, and that he was sorry for the type of language he used at the time. He later told Parliament that “The Marikana tragedy stands out as the darkest moment in the life of our young democracy.”
If he really means all this then there can be no reason, five and a half year later, for any further delay in the prosecution of those implicated in the main massacre.
SAFTU has dismisses Ramaphosa’s attempt to apologise for his role in the massacre. In 2012 he was a board member of the Marikana workers’ employer Lonmin, and, before the massacre, sent messages to management calling for “concomitant action” against the strikers.
The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa, which represents 36 families of the killed miners, has urged Ramaphosa to turn his promises into actions, saying that “the families of those killed had indicated that a meaningful response would include financial compensation, a formal apology from the police minister and that the police officers involved in the killings be charged criminally and prosecuted”.
SAFTU fully agree with the families and will continue to support their campaign for the full truth to be exposed, full financial compensation and for all those responsible to be brought to justice.