This week marks the 10th anniversary of the Marikana massacre, the day that striking South African mineworkers were violently attacked by the police, who killed 37 unarmed people. The police, government, company and even current President Cyril Ramaphosa, who were all directly involved, have not been held accountable for their crimes, and have gotten away, literally, with murder.
On the 16 August 2012, rockdrillers at Lonmin platinum mine were on strike, after a week of protests, demanding a basic, decent, liveable salary of R12 500 (MT 43 600 at the time) a month, on which the company refused to negotiate. The men were gathered on a hill, when the police opened live fire, unprovoked, and many men met horrific deaths – some of them were shot at close range, and some were even crushed by police vehicles.
Today, a full decade later, rockdrillers at the company are only earning R13 000 (MT 49 600). Lonmin never issued a formal apology for this massacre, not even to the families of those slain or the injured and has not provided all families with income compensation. In 2018, the company was bought by Sibanye-Stillwater. Lonmin has been a snake, slithering out of the country to avoid culpability.
No members of the police force. nor the government have been pinished or even legally charged for these blatant murders. President Ramphosa was a non-executive director of Lonmin at the time, and put pressure on the police to treat the strike as a criminal matter. Yet he has been exonerated of any responsibility for this massacre.
The families of the murdered mineworkers are continuing to go to court to obtain justice for their loved ones, for those guilty of these crimes to face some kind of punishment, and they will continue fight.
South Africans still live in an economic apartheid. The poor, including workers in the extractive and fossil fuel industries – the bodies on whom companies make as much as hundreds of billions every year – are still treated as less than human, as mere transactional tools to keep the capitalist system working for the wealthy, for local and international political and economic elite to benefit from their mere existence. This goes beyond South Africa – these exact same words can be used when talking about the extractive industries in Mozambique, Tanzania, Namibia, Lesotho, DRC, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Morocco, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Native American lands, to name very, very few.
Russian anarchist Pyotr Kropotkin once said: Everywhere you will find that the wealth of the wealthy stems from the poverty of the poor. We at JA! Stand in solidarity with the families of the murdered Lonmin mineworkers and those injured, with those fighting for basic humanity around the world, with those fighting for their lands, livelihoods, and the earth.
We urgently need the United Nations (UN) to implement a Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights, an accountability tool that actually has teeth and that communities devastated by corporations and civil society have been demanding for years.
Guiding principles are not enough – corporations have shown that they have no interest in human rights, the climate and the environment, except when they need to tick a box- and guidelines are certainly not going to force them to act with humanity.
It is time for institutions of power – states, especially those in the North, the UN and European Union- to create, and enforce laws that will make companies like Lonmin pay for their crimes, and protect lives, like those of the Marikana miners, struggling for their basic right to be treated as human beings. We must continue to fight to ensure that this capitalist, imperialist and neo-colonialist system of exploitation ends right now!