Marikana victims to be remembered… three years on

34 miners were shot and killed by police on the 16 August 2012 and 10 others days before.

FILE: Crosses on the koppie in Marikana, where 34 miners were killed in a standoff with police on 16 August 2012. Picture: Christa van der Walt/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Marikana community will commemorate the miners who were killed at the infamous Koppie today three years since the deadly shooting.

Families of the Marikana victims and surviving miners say their lives have not improved since that fateful day.

Thirty-four miners were shot and killed by police on the 16 August 2012 and 10 others killed in the days leading up to the shooting during a violent and unprotected strike.

Today the community will be back in the area to pay tribute to those who died.

The Farlam Commission of Inquiry has since sat for more than 300 days, heard testimony from dozens of witnesses, and released its findings, which didn't offer closure for those affected.

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Thirty-four miners took their last breaths in seconds and fell to the ground in what would later play repeatedly on television screens across the globe.

In the past three years the commission of inquiry has heard the testimony on what led up to the shooting and released its findings, pointing fingers at the police, Lonmin, the unions and the miners.

Sephathi Mekwe lives in Marikana and has spent time trying to uplift the community but she says the suffering continues.

"Things are not going well, because they lost their husbands, other children had to give up school."

This week families of the victims, the injured and arrested miners have filed civil claims against the state for financial compensation, with some asking for around R3 million each.

To date, there have been no arrests.

Miners carried dangerous weapons and threatened those who didn't want to participate in the strike.

Hundreds of police officers were deployed to Marikana and the North-West police commissioner called for the violence to come to an end.

"We have deployed these various units in order to make sure that today we end this violence."

There has been calls for the police officers implicated in the shooting to be suspended with immediate effect.


The day before 16 August 2012 shooting was characterised by meetings between the miners and their union leaders and debriefings with police.

It was also on the 15 August that the decision was endorsed to remove the strikers by force if they refused to lay down their weapons.

The conversation between police and Lonmin management terminated on the basis that the following day would be D-day when the strikers either voluntarily surrendered their arms or were forced to do so by police.

However, that didn't happen for two reasons.

Firstly police commanders appreciated that it would be a breach of faith while negotiations were still proceeding.

Secondly the presidents of Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) agreed to go back to Marikana in a bid to persuade their members to go back to work.

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Amcu's Joseph Mathunjwa and then NUM's Senzeni Zokwana went to the koppie without Lonmin's representative who reiterated that the mining firm would only negotiate in a controlled environment within bargaining structures.

Zokwana was up first he used a loudspeaker to speak to strikers but they refused to listen and he was forced to abandon his address.

Mathunjwa however had a friendlier reception.

He told the group that he had asked Lonmin for a guarantee that if they returned to work management would listen to the union.

Two debriefing sessions were held with police later that day, one with Amcu and the other with the NUM.

At the Amcu debrief, Mathunjwa came across as confident that the strikers would lay down their weapons the next day and said it would be "a day of joy for everyone".

During the NUM session, Zokwana stressed that the miners could not keep their weapons, police warned that disarming the strikers would be bloodshed and that using a firearm to disarm someone with an axe would simply never work.

Meanwhile in Midrand, National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega was attending a meeting of the national management forum of the police service.

It was at that meeting that the decision to forcibly remove miners if they refused to lay down their arms was endorsed.

Not much else is known about the meeting in Midrand.

To read the full Marikana report, click here.