Commemorating Marikana: The spirit of Mambush lives on.

The ruling party’s handing of events before and after South Africa’s first post-apartheid massacre is a metaphor for its indifference to corruption and poor governance, writes LUCAS LEDWABA

The events leading up to and after the Marikana massacre of 16 August 2012 represent two key principles that have come to define life under the ANC government in recent years.

The first is the ‘toxic collusion’ between state and big business which led to the ultimate decision to use state security forces to settle a labour dispute when the door for negotiation was always open.

The second, which is the aftermath of the massacre in which 34 mineworkers were shot dead in cold blood by members of the SAPS, represents the shameless lack of accountability that has become a defining feature of the ANC government.

With respect to the ‘toxic collusion’ which legal counsel for the injured and arrested miners in the Marikana Commission of Inquiry in October 2012, the ANC seems to have copied the tactics of the very evil system its founding fathers fought from 1912.

In August 1946 the regime of Jan Smuts applied similar tactics, unleashing the air force to bomb out a strike by African mine workers who were demanding a living wage for their toil. This was because the gold mining industry oiled the wheels of the economy and black men downing tools were deemed a nuisance and an obstacle to the interests of both state and capital.

It is now a matter of public record that Cyril Ramaphosa, then ANC deputy president and shareholder at Lonmin used his influence and proximity to political power to unleash the biggest deployment of police officers in recent memory to break up the strike.

Revelations that he had sent out an e-mail calling for concomitant action against the strikers earned him the rather shameful nickname Mr Concomitant in some quarters.

Even in the tragic aftermath of the massacre Ramaphosa never truly owned up to his role in the events leading to the events of 16 August 2012 – choosing instead to hide behind a team of high profile lawyers to defend himself before the commission.

This however did not stop him from being exposed as a man who was only truly interested in the profits churned out by the sweat of the workers rather than their welfare as he made himself out to be in public.

One of these revelations was that under his watch as chairman of Lonmin’s transformation committee, the company had delivered only three of the 5 000 housing units for its workers as part of its social labour plan.

He did not even know this detail when he appeared before the commission, yet by some strange coincidence, he knew the financial performance of the company by heart dating back several years. Any reasonable man would not struggle to see where Ramaphosa’s heart really was.

By his own admission, the transformation committee’s task included driving the transformation of issues such as housing and employment equity among other factors. These were some of the principles Ramaphosa, in his role as general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers had fought for some 25 years earlier. 

While leading the strike by over 240 000 workers in August 1987, a reported eight workers were killed in violence orchestrated by the state security forces colluding with mine security. Over 500 of the workers were badly injured and thousands summarily dismissed. The strike came to a crushing end with the state having brutalised workers to protect the interests of capital.

But in 2012, just two decades and five years after leading a strike bigger than the one in 1946, Ramaphosa, now comfortable in the executive suites and straddling the corridors of political power – had seemingly forgotten the dreary past.

He had now moved onto the other side where the need to keep his stomach full and his business handlers happy, overrode all sense of justice and empathy for the workers who were seemingly not much better off than they were when he was still union leader.

Yet five years after Marikana his comrades in the ruling party deemed it fit to elevate the man to the presidency of a party founded on the ethos of fighting for the rights of the oppressed.

Suddenly all was forgotten and Ramaphosa was sold to a naïve public as a conquering hero who had come to save the country from the mess created by his predecessor Jacob Zuma.

And therein lies the problem with the ANC of today – they have short memories. They have forgotten too easily the pain, the struggle, the victims and price paid by many on the march to freedom from institutionalised apartheid.

The Ramaphosa and ANC indifference in relation to the Marikana massacre is a metaphor of what their government has become. Under the ANC mediocrity has become normalised and gets rewarded.

Under the ANC the term accountability has been erased completely from the vocabulary. This lack of accountability and the collective amnesia about the principles of the struggle, which was to fight injustice, poverty, racial oppression, underdevelopment and general marginalisation of black people has left the country in a mess.

By rewarding incompetent comrades with lucrative jobs and contracts, local government has all but collapsed. Under the ANC whose present leadership has forgotten why it was formed in the first place, State Owned Entities that thrived under the unjust apartheid system have been looted, pillaged and destroyed with no one held accountable.

Communities are forced to scramble for water because incompetent comrades were rewarded with plum jobs, raw sewage is being pumped into rivers, roads and other infrastructure built only a few years ago are crumbling due to poor standards induced by corruption.

While many of the country’s citizens may be as indifferent to the tragedy of the Marikana dead and their families, the sad reality is that we are all Marikana. We are all Marikana because we are at the mercy of an organisation whose leadership and general attitude is that of people that only care about living large at our expense. Whether the country is reduced to a wasteland of collapsed systems and infrastructure – they do not seem to care, just like they did not care about Marikana.

And just like the men of Marikana, the ANC government under Ramaphosa continues to massacre all of us daily with poor service delivery, indifference to mediocrity and corruption and the failure to hold those responsible the rapid decline of our beloved country into a wasteland of bribery, cover ups and outright looting.

It has become a dysfunctional machine where everyone looks after their own interests or those of their faction or the clique in control of the levers of state power.

It’s just like the Marikana tragedy where no one in the ANC was brave enough to call for accountability, probably for fear of being booted out of the inner circle that is a vehicle to access lucrative government contracts and positions in SOEs.

And if anyone expects the ANC that is destroying this country through poor governance and endemic corruption to self-correct, they should look no further than Marikana.


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