Marikana – a massive failure of justice
The fifth anniversary of the Marikana massacre is going to pass us by without a single police officer in the dock for killing 34 striking mine workers and injuring at least 72 on August 10 2012.
On that day, police gunned down 17 mine workers at the Marikana koppie before pursuing fleeing workers, killing a further 17 of them at the small koppie, at what is known today as Scene 2. Some of the fleeing mine workers were hiding behind rocks when the police killed them in cold blood. Others had been trying to surrender. Most were shot in the back.
Just why the officers responsible for the most lethal use of police force since the 1960 Sharpeville massacre have not been prosecuted for this crime beggars belief.
In March, we reported that former national police commissioner Riah Phiyega was to top a list of 72 officers identified for prosecution for their role in the massacre. The Independent Police Investigative Directorate told Parliament its investigations were at an advanced stage and that charges would include murder, assault, perjury and defeating the ends of justice.
So, why are we yet to see these police officers in court? Two of the excuses advanced for this monumental failure of justice include: no budget for crime scene reconstruction and a forensic investigation, and confusion over which cops used which guns, making ballistics investigations difficult. We have money for many things in this country – why not for this?
Failure to pursue the prosecutions sends a message that the lives of poor, migrant workers are meaningless. Or could it be that it is not a priority because the workers had rejected a union that was favoured by the governing elite?
The mine workers alleged to have killed union officials, Lonmin security guards and police officers in the days before the massacre were rightly brought to book years ago. We now need justice for the 34 massacred men. But, as another year passes, we lose hope that their families will receive it.