By Mmusi Maimane – Leader of the Democratic Alliance:
Tomorrow, seven years ago, 34 mineworkers and breadwinners were gunned down by the South African Police Service (SAPS) acting on the direction of senior politicians and government officials. Today we remember those who lost their lives and honour their legacy. These men bravely stood up and protested against what they believed were unjust wages and inhumane living conditions. Instead of being met by meaningful engagement, they were met by live rounds of ammunition from a government far removed from the realities and struggles of daily life in South Africa. This will always be a tragedy that will haunt our nation.
We must honour these brave men, and ensure they are never forgotten. I have again today, as I did last year, written to President Cyril Ramaphosa – a central figure in this massacre – requesting that he officially declares 16 August “Marikana Memorial Day” in honour of the workers killed seven years ago. Given President Ramaphosa’s pledge to “play whatever role he can”, this is the very least he can do to honour the victims of this massacre.
In addition to this, today is not only about justice for the 34 miners who were killed by the ANC government on that fateful day, but the over 500 000 South Africans who work directly for the mines. With at least as many working in associated industries, the mining industry is responsible for approximately 1 million jobs in South Africa and faces profound stress with continual job losses. The mining sector is integral to our economy and is in desperate need of profound reform.
In this light I have also approached President Ramaphosa requesting the establishment of a Mining Task Team in order to oversee much needed reform in the sector. This Task Team ought to compromise of government officials, opposition parties in Parliament, industry experts, union representatives, and representatives from all major mining companies in South Africa.
The Task Team must focus on the following:
- Promoting the mining industry as a key catalyst for investment and exports both locally and internationally;
- Exploring new evidence-based, safe and sustainable mining options, including offshore oil and gas fracking;
- Ending illegal mining by increasing competition and opening up the formal mining economy to more players;
- Exploring the role of local governments in building safer housing communities in mining towns;
- Reviewing the current Mining Charter; and
- Drafting proposals on how best to ensure just and meaningful profit sharing exists between mining companies and miners.
Lastly, we must ensure accountability is pursued. Many of the key players involved in the massacre walk free today. Then Police Commissioner, Riah Phiyega, and former Police Minister, Nathi Mthethwa, have never been prosecuted with Mthethwa still serving in Ramaphosa’s Cabinet. The ANCs culture of zero accountability continues unabated under President Ramaphosa.
The conditions that enabled the Marikana massacre to occur still exist today. President Ramaphosa has the power to honour the victims of Marikana by pursuing the reform of our nation’s mining sector. The time for talk is over, the people of South Africa want action.