'The week that changed our lives for good'

Lonmin says the best way to commemorate the Marikana tragedy is to ensure it's never repeated.

Miners gather on the koppie in Marikana ahead of the anniversary of the shooting in which 34 miners were killed. Picture: Christa van der Walt/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Lonmin says the best way to commemorate the Marikana tragedy during which 44 people were killed is to ensure it never happens again.

Today marks one year since 34 miners were gunned down and 78 others wounded during a standoff with police at Lonmin's Marikana Platinum Mine.

Ten other people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in strike-related violence. Lonmin miners had embarked on an unprotected strike to demand higher wages.

The Marikana standoff has been described as the bloodiest shootout in post-apartheid South Africa.

Speaking to Talk Radio 702's John Robbie on Friday morning, Abey Kgotle, Lonmin's executive manager of human capital, said the company has gone through a very challenging 12 months and continues to confront a number of challenges.

He appealed to all the parties affected to work together to ensure the incident isn't repeated.

"Our view is that the best way to commemorate this tragedy is by ensuring it never happens again. And we would be able to achieve that by joining hands in ensuring we create an environment free of intimidation, violence and all of these bad things that have characterised it since the incident."

Kgotle said a lot has changed within the organisation since the Marikana killings.

"The tragedy in August 2012 is indeed a life changing experience. We talk about this as a week that changed our lives for good."

When asked about his take on what happened on the day, Kgotle said he couldn't go into much detail because he would be taking the stand at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry.

"We will be disclosing more of our understanding of the circumstances when we appear before [Judge] Farlam."

However, he said there were a number of issues that were involved, one of those being the demand for higher wages by mine employees.

Kgotle said there were several things the company had done since the incident in an attempt to address the needs of workers.

"Earlier this year, Lonmin identified five key initiatives that will be implemented to ensure that we don't go back to where we were in August."

He said one of the key areas the company was focusing on was the miners' living conditions.

"We have indeed identified housing and accommodation as one of the critical focus areas. Over the last number of years we have been converting our hostels into family and bachelor units and this is a programme we will be completing in the next 12 months or so."


Meanwhile, thousands of miners are expected to gather in Marikana today to remember their colleagues who were killed.

The event has been organised by Advocate Dali Mpofu, who is representing Lonmin miners at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, Amcu President Joseph Mathunjwa and Bishop Jo Seoka who has supported the miners since the start of their unprotected strike.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the African National Congress will be boycotting the event.

The NUM's Lesiba Seshoka said the union was snubbing the event because it had been "hijacked" from the office of the Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.

Bishop Thabo Makgoba, who has a PHD on spirituality in the mining industry, referred to the ANC and the NUM snubbing the event being held in Marikana today as "pathetic and trivial".

"It's my prayer that as South Africans we remember that wonderful vision that we all have of a united democratic country; united against poverty to guide us rather than political manoeuvring and games. My prayer is that even if there is boycotting, that all South Africans will spare a moment from today until Sunday and pray for those killed at Marikana, including the orphans and wives who are having to go through the traumatic Farlam commission."

When asks why there was so much anger and violence in the area, where religion is also involved, Makgoba said a large reason for this was the apportioning of blame.

"Anger directed appropriately is an emotion that all of us have. But if it turns into violence then it becomes something else. That's where religion ought to help people to deal with their anger constructively. In the case of Marikana, I think no amount of justification on who to blame or not to blame will bring those that have died back and what we need to do is commemorate them and ensure that the shooting doesn't happen again."

Click here for a visual journey of the Marikana story.