Mathunjwa: Marikana tragedy opened workers' eyes to their exploitation

As South Africa reflects on the Marikana massacre that claimed the lives of 34 mineworkers seven years ago on this day, mining union Amcu has described it as the epitome of a struggle for economic emancipation.

FILE: Miners sit at the 'koppie' in Marikana ahead of a programme to commemorate the Marikana massacre, on 16 August 2018. Picture: Pelane Phakgadi/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - As South Africa reflects on the Marikana massacre that claimed the lives of 34 mineworkers seven years ago on this day, mining union Amcu has described it as the epitome of a struggle for economic emancipation.

Amcu led the strike that ended in bloodshed when police shot at mineworkers protesting for wage increases against mining giant Lonmin.

Union president Joseph Mathunjwa said the hundreds of mineworkers who had gathered on top of the koppie calling for better wages were in effect the architects of the struggle for economic freedom.

Before police opened fire on the workers on that fateful winter afternoon, Mathunjwa had gotten down on his knees and begged the striking workers to retreat as tensions rose.

He told Eyewitness News that what happened at Marikana opened the eyes of workers across the country to their exploitation.

"Many of us were made to believe that is uhuru and workers said 'no, we are labouring under these conditions and we can't show any fruits of it.'"

The massacre was the first mass shooting experienced under the democratic dispensation, drawing the government scorn for overseeing the deaths of black people as the apartheid regime had before it.

Mathunwa said that the killings exposed the interests of the African National Congress (ANC)-led government.

Before the events in Marikana seven years ago, entry level low-skilled mineworkers earned as little as R5,000 a month. With the strike finally ending when Lonmin agreed to wage increases of between 11% and 22%.

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