JSE-listed precious metal miner Sibanye-Stillwater on August 14 hosted a memorial lecture honouring the 44 people who were killed in the Marikana shooting tragedy in August 2012.
Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman says the shadow cast by the Marikana tragedy remains to this day and adds that the incident was an inflection point in South Africa and in the mining industry.
Sibanye acquired platinum miner Lonmin, which was the owner of the mine at the time, in June 2019.
The Marikana massacre involved the most lethal use of force by South African security forces against civilians since the advent of the country’s democracy. The shootings took place on what was the 25-year anniversary of a nationwide South African miners’ strike.
The Marikana massacre started as a strike at the mine owned by Lonmin in the Marikana area, close to Rustenburg, but turned into a violent incident between the South African Police Service, Lonmin security and members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on the one side and striking employees on the other.
Thirty-four mineworkers were killed on August 16, 2012, at Lonmin Marikana operations, when the police shot them at a koppie near the Nkaneng informal settlement. A further 78 were injured and hundreds arrested.
The workers, led by rock-drill operators, had waged a week-long wildcat strike demanding a minimum monthly salary of R12 500.
They rejected the NUM, the dominant union at the time, and elected a workers committee to represent them in putting their demands to Lonmin.
In total 44 people were killed during the violent strike – ten people, including two Lonmin security officers and two policemen, had been killed a few days earlier.
Froneman says Sibanye has a vision for the renewal of Marikana, and by delivering tangible and sustainable programmes for the benefit of local communities around Marikana, a new legacy of healing and hope can emerge.
Over the years following the tragedy, Lonmin implemented wide-ranging changes based on the shortcomings identified by the Farlam Commission and industry best practice.
Steps by Lonmin included establishing the 1608 Memorial Trust, the employment of family members of deceased employees and the donation of land and completion of a hostel conversion process.
Sibanye continues its support through the trust, which supports about 141 beneficiaries at various education levels. To date, the trust has spent R32-million on educational assistance.
From Sibanye’s side, the company has handed over six homes to widows of those who were killed. The homes have been renovated or newly acquired, while a further 19 houses will be handed over before the end of this year.
Sibanye also continues to provide employment to the spouses or a chosen family member of those who died during the massacre.
Speaking during the memorial lecture, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said the Marikana massacre is an important event to remember so that the mistakes that led to the devastating events between August 12 and 16, 2012, are never repeated again.
He stated that South Africa continues to be plagued by high levels of corruption, racism and gender-based violence, which are as destructive as a pandemic and must too be resisted.
“The societal issues around Marikana are the very history of South Africa, to which we must join forces to change.”
Froneman mentioned that the company decided to host a memorial lecture because the only way to move forward as a company, an industry and as a society, is to "reconcile with our past and effectively deal with a lack of trust by remembering what went wrong and have reconciliation of those events, and never allow them to happen again”.
South African advocate and former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela commented that the Marikana massacre happened because “we forgot to remember our ugly, injust past and the legacy it had left with us.
“We forgot to heal and we forgot to focus on renewal. When we commemorate Marikana, we say ordinary people matter, their lives matter and the lives of their loved ones matter.
“Marikana and other events of greed [are] all testament to a failure of remembering what happened in the past and how it can influence the present.”
Madonsela explained further that on those few days in August, the fabric of society was tampered with, but that it was also, in fact, a tampered fabric of society that caused the tragedy.
She believes that as long as there is harm in one part of a system, it will impact the entire system and humanity is also a system that requires an ecosystem approach for shared work, wealth and wellbeing.
Madonsela stated that the mining industry needed a growth mindset that acknowledges past mistakes and was willing to co-create the future with its communities.
“We need to renew, not just the way we do things, but also the way we think, to Ubuntu-thinking. We need leadership that is ethical and we need commitment from everyone to serve everyone.
“For there cannot be sustainable peace anywhere, as long as there is social injustice somewhere.”
*The memorial lecture hosted by Sibanye is separate from other similar events, such as the one organised by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.