Shifting the blame for the Marikana massacre
Two years on and the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, led by retired Judge Ian Farlam, is nowhere close to placing the blame for the tragedy on anyone’s doorstep.
For t y- f our people died at t he hands of the police, Lonmin security off icers and strikers, but one thing st r uck me during t he f i rst day of closing arguments l ast week: “The unfortunate truth is that, wit h some honourable exceptions, many witnesses before the commission gave false evidence.”
With t he s e words, f r om t he commission’s evidence leader Adv. Geoff Budlender SC, I realised that the truth is that many people – especially the widows and families I visited in 2012 after the massacre – may never receive the closure that they have waited for. They will always know that some cop or striker killed their beloved husband or brother or father, but they will never see the face of the person or people responsible.
For the most part I believe that the top echelons of our police service are to blame for the lack of candour and honesty. It was shocking to f ind out that members of the police service hid or failed to timeously produce crucial evidence before t he commission’s proceedings commenced. The National Police Commissioner, Riah Phiyega, led that pack.
She has been vi e wed by most parties to have been untruthful in many respects, or to have conveniently forgotten specific events. A case in point was the extraordinary meeting which Phiyega convened the night before her force gunned down 34 strikers on 16 August 2012.
According to evidence, this was t he meeting where t he plan which led to the deaths was drawn up. The minutes of t his meeting were not brought before the commission. When this was discovered, the honourable Phiyega forgot what was discussed during that meeting.
The police also failed to reveal, until much later, that they had ordered mortuary vans and an additional 4 000 R5 rounds of ammunition the morning of the bloodshed. They tried to hide crucial video footage and painted a picture of rabid miners high on muti after they had planted weapons on the deceased’s bodies. Phiyega’s team has embarrassed themselves, and the ‘ drip, drip’ manner i n which t hey produced evidence is nothing short of infuriating and criminal.
Much has been said about Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s “political interference” and his role in influencing former police minister Nathi Mthethwa and former minister of mineral resources Susan Shabangu. He asked them to re-characterise the strike and to act in a more “pointed” manner – and the ministers did exactly that. But somehow the commission is supposed to believe that the three played no role in all of this.
Marikana has been one of the most convoluted tragedies in our history, and no one will escape blame.
No matter how one argues this, the reality is that police off icers, strikers and securit y personnel died at t he hands of strikers. One man was in a unique position to shed some light
Judge Ian Farlam