On 26 August 2020, Daily Maverick published an op-ed by SERI candidate attorney Khuselwa Dyantyi and SERI researcher Thato Masiangoako about the how the narrative of Marikana and the striking mineworkers has continued to have a damaging impact on justice and healing for the victims and their families.
In the op-ed, entitled "Marikana massacre: The devastating impact of the narrative painted by business, police and the state", Dyantyi and Masiangoako argue that the characterisation of the striking mineworkers as irrational, violent and unreasonable delegitimised their strike in 2012 but that this narrative has continued to shape how the deadly force used by the police to end the strike is understood and (un)accounted for.
They go on to argue that this narrative of Marikana has allowed the state to never fully account for Marikana and that this has allowed police violence to continue unabated. According to Viewfinder analysis of IPID data, since 2012 the police have killed a person a day, on average, and have been reported for more than 1,000 torture complaints and more than 26,000 complaints of assault.
August 2020 marks the 8th anniversary of the Marikana massacre. To commemorate the anniversary SERI hosted a webinar, in partnership with the Anti-repression Working Group of the C-19 People’s Coalition, to reflect on the continued lack of accountability for Marikana as well as the continuation of police brutality since the massacre. The webinar took place on 13 August - the date that the striking mineworkers experienced police violence in the days prior to the 16th of August.
The panel included Nowili Palesa Nungu and Sebolai Liau. Nungu is the daughter of the late Jackson Lehupa and Liau is the son of the late Janeveke Raphael Liau. Mr Lehupa and Mr Liau were both killed on the 16th of August 2012. The panel also included Nomsa Montsha, the life partner of Collins Khosa.
Ms Nungu and Mr Liau shared their experiences of losing their parents at a young age and the impact that a lack of justice and recognition has had on their families. Ms Montsha discussed her struggle for justice and accountability for what happened to Mr Khosa and how that struggle has affected her ability to mourn. Mr Khosa died from injuries sustained from an assault by members of the South African National Defence Force who were accompanied by members of the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department. SERI's Zamantungwa Mbeki chaired the panel discussion.
Other members of the panel were S’bu Zikode, founder and president of Abahlali baseMjondolo; Axolile Nyotwala, general secretary at the Social Justice Coalition in Cape Town; and Adele Kirsten, a former member of the Marikana Panel of Experts on Policing and Crowd Management and the Anti-repression Working Group of the C-19 People’s Coalition. Mr Zikode shared Abahlali's experience of state violence in eThekwini’ since their formation in 2005. Mr Notywala reflected on the evictions he has monitored during the lockdown and the role of the Anti-Land Invasion Unit and law enforcement in Cape Town. Ms Kirsten spoke about the Minister of Police's failure to publicly release the report and reflected on some of the unlearned lessons from Marikana including the misuse of less-lethal weapons, accountability and leadership issues.
Remembering the forgotten Marikana women
On 13 August 2020, SERI candidate attorney Khuselwa Dyantyi spoke at a Marikana commemorative event entitled "Remembering the forgotten Marikana women" hosted by the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU).
In her inputs, Dyantyi spoke about the experiences of the families of the mineworkers following the massacre and reflected on the families’ participation in the Commission of Inquiry. Dyantyi spoke specifically noted how the families were initially excluded from the process and were not given the opportunity to share how they felt. The families wanted to participate in the Commission of Inquiry because they wanted to see justice. They had travelled from places like Lesotho, the Eastern Cape, Mafikeng and other the surrounding areas in the North West in order to hear for themselves what happened to their loved ones.
Dyantyi also discussed the continued lack of accountability as well as the way forward for the families in terms of litigation. Two short documentary clips from SERI entitled "Imbokodo: The widows of Marikana" and "Bringing the truth home" were also played for the participants.
The massacre that didn't change policing
On 18 August 2020, SERI Executive Director Nomzamo Zondo participated in a webinar entitled "The massacre that didn't change policing". The webinar was hosted by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF). Nomzamo Zondo was joined by Judge Ian Farlam who chaired the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, and Themba Masuku from APCOF chaired the discussion. In her inputs, Zondo reflected on the experience of the families and the extent to which the Commission of Inquiry addressed their needs for truth and justice.
Zondo also discussed the lack of police reform since Marikana and how that has contributed to repeating patterns of police brutality especially in the contexts of protest action and evictions. She argued that police conduct during the national lockdown has evidenced that policing in South Africa is done through violence. She argued that the disproportionate use of force by police was a consequence of failing to learn from the Marikana massacre and failure to rein in police violence.
The panel discussed the significance of Expert panel report on public order policing and crowd management which was completed and submitted in 2018 but is yet to be made public by the Minister of Police. The panel was established in line with one of the recommendations from the Farlam Commission of Inquiry.
This week, the Mail and Guardian published an op-ed by SERI’s senior associate, Lauren Royston and senior attorney, Nkosinathi Sithole on the importance of the state providing temporary alternative accommodation to people who would otherwise be rendered homeless by an eviction. The op-ed concludes that:
As much as a crisis exposes inequality, it also provides an opportunity to address the living conditions of people living in informal settlements and derelict inner-city buildings, as long as there is bureaucratic will and that the emergency interventions are made with a long-term perspective and a durable impact. Now more than ever we need to make sure that any state interventions, at whatever sphere of government, abide by the law; that no unlawful evictions occur; and that municipalities proactively plan for the provision of basic services and alternative accommodation.
Yvonne joins us as a senior researcher. Prior to this she worked as an independent research consultant and senior researcher at the University of Johannesburg’s Africa Centre for Evidence. She holds an interdisciplinary social science PhD from St George’s, University of London, a MA in Development Studies from the University of the Witwatersrand, a BA Honours in Development Studies and a BA in Political Sciences both from RAU (now University of Johannesburg). She has expertise in research and evidence synthesis for decision-making and has worked closely with a wide range of stakeholders on research uptake. Her multi-disciplinary training and research methods background has led her to work across social topics such as women’s economic empowerment, poverty and the environment, race and identity, gender and development, sexual and reproductive health, and inner city housing.
Amanda joins us as a litigation fellow. She holds a Master of Laws (LLM) and a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). She served her articles of clerkship with SERI before joining the South African Human Rights Commission as an advocacy and research officer. Amanda has an interest in human rights law. Her passion lies in protecting the rights of indigent members of the South African society and using the law as a tool to bring about social change.
Tebogo joins us as a research intern. She holds a BA Law and Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from the University of the Witwatersrand. She is currently pursuing a Postgraduate Diploma in Human rights Advocacy and Litigation at the same university. Tebogo previously served a legal internship with Lawyers for Human Rights at the Refugee and Migrants unit. At university, she served as the community outreach co-ordinator for Students for Law and Social Justice. She has further volunteered as student assistance and Graduate Recruitment Programme Ambassador for the Counseling, Careers and Development Unit at Wits University. Tebogo was also selected by the Gauteng South African Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges to be a mentee in the organisation. Tebogo has interests in community development, advancing the rights of marginalised communities and using the law as a conduit for socio-economic change in South Africa.
On Sunday, 16 August 2020, will mark the 8th anniversary of the Marikana massacre. Each year has passed without justice for the mineworkers and their families. Since 2012, only nine police officers have been prosecuted for the deaths of three striking mineworkers and two police officers. However, the National Prosecuting Authority, has failed to prosecute anyone for the deaths of the 34 mineworkers who were shot and killed by the police on 16 August 2012.
A lack of political will to deliver any form of justice to the families is evidenced by the failure to prosecute those responsible. In addition, the government has yet to release the report by the Panel of Experts on Policing and Crowd Management which was completed in 2018. While the families of the mineworkers continue to wait for justice, excessive use of force and brutality by the police persists. Poor leadership and weak levels of police accountability have contributed to a pervasive culture of impunity within the police. This has had a devastating impact on public confidence in the police.
Locally, during the COVID-19 nationwide lockdown South Africa witnessed heavy-handed enforcement by various law enforcement bodies, including the Anti-Land Invasion Unit and other private security bodies resulting in violations of dignity, physical injury, and death. Globally, the Black Lives Matter movement, following the brutal killing of George Floyd in the United States, has further thrown the spotlight on instances of police impunity.
Last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa described Marikana as “the darkest moment in the life of our young democracy”. However, with the families of the miners and other victims of police violence waiting for those responsible to be held accountable, South Africa has never emerged from that dark moment. According to complaints lodged with IPID against the South African Police Service between April 2012 and March 2019, on average, the police have killed one person every day.
The cost of violent policing and lack of accountability continues to be paid by the families in their continued suffering. Government and the police have demonstrably failed to heed any of the lessons from Marikana. They have failed to implement any measures to restrain the use of force by the police and to see to it that officers who work outside of the confines of the law and international best principles are held accountable.