The Marikana Memorial Service for 44 slain South African miners
By Jerry Okungu
August 27, 2012
Last week was unique for our brothers and sisters in South Africa.
It was the moment the Marikana police murders of over 40 striking miners reminded us of South Africa of Apartheid era. The shooting of miners easily reminded the world of the 1960s Sharpeville Massacre or better still the 1976 Soweto massacre of school children by the police.
The three incidents in 1960, 1976 and 2012 spanning nearly 50 years had one thing in common- state sanctioned murders by the police. The one glaring difference was that unlike the Sharpeville and Soweto massacres over four decades earlier, this time round, there was no racist apartheid to blame. The government that murdered its people for the sake of foreign investors was a Black government- a Black President, a Black Police Minister and a Black Police Commissioner!
On the day these chilling state murders were taking place, something else was happing in the South African judiciary that equally perplexing. Chris Mahlanga, a black farm hand earlier accused of killing Terrence Blanche, a known White Supremacist over a pay dispute was jailed for life! And who was the presiding judge in this case? It was none other than Justice John Horn, a White South African!
As an observer from Nairobi, I may not have all the facts to ascertain where the blame lies in both cases. May be in the Chris Mahlanga case, he confessed to killing a known Nigger hater, may be out of frustration for continuously being exploited with nowhere to turn. And looking at Mahlanda, it would appear like he hadn’t gone to school much and maybe he didn’t even know his basic legal rights and channels for redress. Now he has to rot in jail for the rest of his life for killing the man who might have abused him for a long, long time.
The Marikana murders beg more questions than answers. If indeed the Marikana miners were armed with guns and crude weapons, how come on this particular day they did not return fire and wound at least one policeman?
If indeed the police felt threatened, why didn’t they shoot into the air or even use rubber bullets that can equally disable rioters so that they could make arrests?
The behavior of Jacob Zuma, Police Minister and Police Commissioner was shocking even to outsiders like us in East Africa.
Here was a national tragedy where over 40 lives had been lost, with equal number of families widowed and orphaned. Yet, even before investigations were carried out, the Police Minister and his commissioner were busy defending this apartheid era brutality. Was it necessary to defend the police action so early in the day? Wouldn’t it have been better PR for the Zuma government if the Police Minister and commissioner resigned over this fiasco? At least this cause of action would have mollified the grieving Black families. Alternatively, why didn’t the police commissioner or even the police minister order the immediate suspension of the squad commander and his team to allow for thorough investigation? In civilized societies like South Africa, this is what is considered being accountable and taking responsibility for actions of your office.
But the most interesting twist to the whole tragedy was Jacob Zuma’s behavior. Indeed he cut short his official trip to Mozambique following the Marikana murders. However, after he visited the scene and declared a day of mourning, he chose to skip the memorial service. This was not withstanding the claim by Julius Malema earlier that it was Zuma who ordered the police to shoot to kill the miners.
As a popularly elected president, it was curious and baffling why a sitting head of state would stay away from such a sensitive national tragedy. Obviously his absence from the Marikana Memorial Service must have easily lent credence to Julius Malema’s wild claims.
More importantly, as a head of state, it is on such national tragedies that the sitting president must have the courage and provide leadership by leading from the front. He needed to be at the memorial service to mourn with the nation, console the bereaved families and trash Malema’s claims. He did none of the above.
Press reports coming out of South Africa do not seem to indicate that the police that shot dead the miners have been reprimanded. And as anxiety continues to grip the South African mining industry, not to mention the entire COSATU workers’ fraternity, it is anybody’s guess what the future holds for South Africa.
However, one thing is for sure. These grisly murders have rekindled the notion that the change of guard in Pretoria has not changed anything for Blacks in that country. The poor South African workers will continue to live in hovels earning a poor man’s wage and get killed like animals should they raise their head. Worse still, the Apartheid era White boss is still the owner of the mines.
The Chris Mahlangas of South Africa must prepare to take over from Nelson Mandela by serving life sentences in South African jails for either threatening the comforts of the landowners or killing their tormentors.
May be South Africans had better embark on the Second Liberation if they want to attain true freedom this time from the ANC that has betrayed them.