News / Africa

South African Inquiry into Miners' Deaths Stalls

A group of protesters follow retired judge Ian Farlam and his team as they inspect the area where the bodies of mine workers were found after the shootings at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana near Rustenburg, South Africa, Oct. 1, 2012.
A group of protesters follow retired judge Ian Farlam and his team as they inspect the area where the bodies of mine workers were found after the shootings at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana near Rustenburg, South Africa, Oct. 1, 2012.
Anita Powell
South African officials have begun an inquiry into violent strikes at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana that left at least 44 people dead.

But it was postponed on Wedenesday after families of the victims who were invited to testify failed to appear.  A union official said they were not given enough notice. 

The Marikana Commission will begin again once the families can be brought in, a development that a prominent activist says is a disappointing start in the search for justice. 

Its central mandate of is to investigate the deaths during six weeks of wildcat strikes. In the main act of violence, police shot dead 34 protesters on August 16 after the workers launched a wildcat strike seeking higher wages.  Police said they fired in self-defense.

The strike was resolved late last month and workers got a 22 percent raise, but the human toll was huge: in addition to those killed, 78 people were wounded and some 270 were arrested.

Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union treasurer Jimmy Gama said the commission chief, retired Judge Ian Farlam, postponed the hearings until the families can be summoned.

“The commission has been postponed until the 22nd of October, 2012, to allow the families of the deceased mineworkers to also be present and also to give the parties enough time to prepare for whatever documents and information they need to present and prepare,” he explained.

Photo Gallery

  • Striking workers at the Blesbok Stadium near Rustenburg,South Africa, September 13, 2012.
  • Striking mine workers armed with machetes, sticks, and spears march to a smelter plant at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, September, 12, 2012.
  • Police keep an eye on striking mine workers as they march to a smelter plant at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, September, 12, 2012.
  • Mine workers take part in a march at Lonmin's Marikana mine in South Africa, September 10, 2012.
  • Miners sing during their march to Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, September 10, 2012.
  • Miners march to Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, September 10, 2012.
  • Miners sing and dance as they march to Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, September. 10, 2012.
  • Miners march to Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, September 10, 2012.
  • Mine workers take part in a march at Lonmin mine in South Africa, September 10, 2012.

Activist Rehad Desai, who heads the Marikana Solidarity Campaign, expressed frustration with the commission’s slow start.

“It’s actually a disgrace," he said.  "Moreover, hardly any evidence has been brought before the commission that has been requested.  You know, we’re told the ballistics reports won’t be ready until the month’s end, the facilities reports aren’t final, they can’t be handed over to the commission, the whole list, the hospital schedules, who’s on duty ... The list just goes on and on.”

Desai said one family member showed up, but no one was there to meet her at the hearings and she ended up sitting outside with nothing to do. 

“It’s a terrible shame, because there’s no closure until people can hear firsthand what happened," he said.

The illegal strike paralyzed South Africa’s mining industry and set off a series of copycat strikes at other gold and platinum mines.  And the workers’ action appears to have emboldened other sectors to strike, including transport workers.

On Monday and Tuesday, commission officials visited the scene in Marikana, some 100 kilometers from Johannesburg.  They toured the miners’ ramshackle squatter camp, the hostels where as many as seven men sleep in one room and the hospital where more wounded miners were treated.  They also visited the craggy, rock-strewn field where so many people died: the 34 protesters killed by police, and the two policemen killed days before by protesters.

The commission has been given four months to do its work and present its findings. 

Its deadline will conveniently overshoot a critical African National Congress meeting in mid-December where the party will choose its leader for presidential elections next year.  President Jacob Zuma is the frontrunner, though the events in Marikana may have weakened him politically.

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Clean Hands
October 03, 2012 2:56 PM
The Trade Unions and those armed strikers should not be allowed to hoodwink their way through the Commission by using legal means at their disposal. It would be interesting to to hear what the Union legal teams are earning on a daily basis and who is paying for this. Then there is the issue of the two murdered police, Security Guards and several workers at the hand of the armed strikers. What is being said about this.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs