National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega has urged all South Africans to pray for those affected by the infamous Marikana shooting which marks its first anniversary tomorrow (Friday August 16).
Phiyega, South Africa’s first woman head of police, made the call on Sunday as she led a prayer service in Cape Town for those who were affected by the events in which 44 people were killed during a wage-related strike at Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana in August last year. Police shot dead 34 striking miners on August 16, 2012 while trying to disperse and disarm them.
“I ask that we pray earnestly as we spare a thought for the families, the friends and the colleagues of the security guards, police officer, workers union officials, workers and innocent bystanders who have lost their lives during this tragedy,” said Phiyega.
She said the Markiana shooting has deeply affected members of the SAPS as well as herself.
“The Marikana tragedy also affected us as police, both as individuals within the service and also as an organisation. As the leader of the organisation, the tragedy has also impacted me. I feel the pain they are experiencing just like the police officers who were on duty in Mariknana. I am learning to come to terms with it,” she said.
Phiyega said that at an opportune time she plans to visit mining communities to try and heal the rift caused by the deaths at Marikana.
Meanwhile commemorations at Marikana tomorrow (Friday) are taking place under a cloud of political division and ongoing violence in the area. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) will not take part in the Marikana commemorations, spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said in a statement today (Thursday). He said the organisation of the commemorations “has been hijacked by the so-called Marikana Support Group and the programme filled with only opposition political parties”. He said that previously there was consensus between the NUM, Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union [Amcu], Solidarity, Uasa [United Association of SA], and various other stakeholders, including the mining companies, that deputy president of the country Kgalema Motlanthe’s office would organise the commemorations.
Seshoka said the good intentions of Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa were “muddied” by what he described as the unilateral hijacking of the commemorations.
The NUM initially welcomed Mathunjwa’s invitation to its president Senzeni Zokwana to the commemoration.
He asked Zokwana to share the stage with him in an attempt to ease tensions in the platinum belt.
Several violent deaths in the area following the Lonmin strike have been blamed on rivalry between Amcu and the NUM.
Lonmin signed an agreement with Amcu this week, recognising it as the company’s majority trade union.
The agreement set a threshold of a 30% membership for any trade union to be recognised by the company.
Membership of the NUM, which used to be the majority union, has dropped to 20% of Lonmin’s workforce.
Seshoka said the mining sector had always been a multi-union environment where smaller unions with as little as 3% membership co-existed with the NUM irrespective of its majority.
“The National Union of Mineworkers saw it fit to not be party to these commemorations as well as to desist from organising separate commemorations as these may fuel tensions.”
At a news briefing on Tuesday, it emerged that workers had asked Amcu, their legal representatives, the SA Council of Churches (SACC), and the Marikana Support Group to organise the event.
South Africa Council of Churches president Bishop Johannes Seoka said the organisers wanted the event to be peaceful and inclusive.
A judicial inquiry into the Marikana deaths a year ago has made little progress and has been plagued by numerous postponements.tle progress. Yesterday the chairman of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, Judge Ian Farlam, postponed the proceedings again because of a delay in securing funding to pay the fees of lawyers for the injured and arrested miners.