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Remembering Marikana: Families say pain of losing loved ones still raw

On 16 August 2012, 34 striking Lonmin mineworkers were killed by officers following a standoff with the company’s management over wage increases.

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 the country prepares to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the Marikana massacre this Sunday, the children of the men who lost their lives at the hands of the police say their pain is still raw.

On 16 August 2012, 34 striking Lonmin mineworkers were killed by officers following a standoff with the company’s management over wage increases.

Encircled with a barbed wire, the workers who had been at the koppie near the mine chanting songs of protest for over a week ran for their lives – but many could not outrun the shooting frenzy meted out by the police.

The images remain etched in the memory of South Africans and those beyond our borders.

Nowili Nungu, whose father Jackson Nokufa was among those killed, said the tragedy still haunted her to this day.

“It’s really painful and it’s heartbreaking and traumatising, I would say.”

Calling for accountability from the government, Sebolai Liau - who was only 14 years old when his father Raphael Liau’s life was cut short on that fateful day - said justice must be served.

“It’s very sad and very disheartening. By now, I was expecting to hear that at least that so many police have been arrested for their actions because those people did not just die a natural death. They were killed and those people who killed them are still hovering around the streets as if nothing has happened.”

The South Africa Police Service claimed after the massacre that the officers opened fire on the mineworkers in self-defence – saying the workers had attempted to attack them using machetes, spears, and clubs.

CALLS FOR RELEASE OF REPORT

A former panel member who worked with other experts commissioned to interrogate policing and crowd management has encouraged activists to plead with Parliament for their report into the Marikana massacre to be released, rather than the Police Minister.

It’s been two years since the panel completed its work.

It made several recommendations about how the South African police service should be reformed. However, government is yet to share the report with the public.

Adele Kirsten – who was part of the 12-member expert panel - said there were many missed lessons for South Africa from the Marikana tragedy.

Kirsten has described the drafting of the report as “intense work” – which had to be expanded to include factors in policing such as political interference and failure of police leadership.

“By the time we got 36 recommendations, it was based largely on consensus. There was a real agreement across the board that there was a need to change the way policing is done in South Africa.”

When asked what South Africans could do to pressure government to release the report, she explained that approaching the minister may not be the best option.

“My sense is that pressure on Parliament rather than the minister I think is going to heed a more positive outcome.”

The Farlam Commission report cited that the National Planning Commission recommended the need to demilitarise the SAPS and professionalise the police – saying the changes should be implemented as a matter of priority.

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