From 7 to 9 May 2015, SERI and the History Workshop at the University of the Witwatersrand hosted a convening entitled “Commissioning the Present: Marikana and its Aftermath” at the University of Witwatersrand’s School of Law.
Here you can access, experience, and reflect on the deliberations which took place during the convening.
Since 2012, the Marikana Commission of Inquiry has been the site of struggles over the narratives, meanings, and implications of the events at Marikana. Participants in the Commission and scholars came together at the convening to consider the development of these narratives and stories, and to place both the massacre and the Commission in context. Spaces were opened for discussion and disagreement, and for the development of new political and social narratives.
Panel discussions and presentations addressed a number of topics, including: The Commission’s Contexts: Social, Economic, Political; The Politics of Platinum; Gender and Lived Experience; Practices of Policing; Popular Politics after Marikana; Political Economies; Land and Custom; Experiencing the Commission: Civil Society Lawyers and Families and Affected Communities; and The Farlam Commission 20 Years after the TRC.
Some of the discussions were filmed in full, and are shown below. Presenters were also asked to summarise their papers on camera. These video papers are shown below.
About SERI and the History Workshop
The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) is a non-profit organisation providing professional and dedicated socio-economic rights assistance to individuals, communities and social movements in South Africa.
SERI conducts applied research, engages with government, advocates for policy and legal reform, facilitates civil society coordination and mobilisation, conducts popular education and training, and litigates in the public interest. The SERI Law Clinic is registered as a public interest law centre.
SERI represented the families of 36 striking miners, who were killed by the police on 13 and 16 August 2012, before the Marikana Commission of Inquiry. SERI also represented the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) at the Commission.
The History Workshop represents over 30 years of primarily community-driven South African social history. Its work attempts both to facilitate histories of people and communities largely left out of broader South African history, and to ensure that the histories and materials generated in this are accessible to the people whose lives and spaces they are about.
In August 2012, a group of Rock Drill Operators, dissatisfied with their wages, and with the representation available from either of the labour unions with a presence at the Lonmin Marikana Shaft, embarked upon an unprotected strike to push Lonmin for higher wages. The strike, and its attendant protest, soon gained widespread support, and incited a violent response – both from union officials and the police. In the days before 16 August 2012, the striking miners, union officials, Lonmin security guards, and the police themselves, all took a small number of casualties. The striking miners – about 3,000 of them – retreated to the top of a small rocky outcrop just outside the Lonmin shaft compound. There they stayed for four days, demanding that Lonmin management come and address them on their demands.
Lonmin did not come. Instead, the police moved to what they called the “tactical phase” of their operations. They encircled the outcrop with barbed wire, and made to disperse the crowd and arrest the striking miners. As they did so, a group of the miners started to descend the hill, moving toward the Nkaneng informal settlement a few hundred metres away. Travelling slowly at first, they sped up, and raised blankets over their heads, as they were met with teargas and rubber bullets fired to their left flank and to the rear. What happened then was televised the world over. Driven towards the police line, the miners ran around a kraal in order to disperse into Nkaneng through a small gap in the police line. As they approached, the police opened fire. Seventeen of the miners were killed there. Other miners ran away, and sheltered behind a small collection of boulders a couple of hundred metres away. The police gave chase and fired into, and from the top of, the boulders. Another seventeen miners were killed.
Soon after the massacre President Jacob Zuma announced that he was setting up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the killings on 16 August 2012, and during the ten days immediately before. The Commission, under the Chairmanship of retired Judge Ian Farlam, sat for 300 days, and received thousands of pages of documentary evidence. On 25 June 2015, President Zuma released the Commission’s report. Other than exonerating the Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, and a few other key political leaders, the report did not make any findings regarding individual or collective responsibility for the deaths it was set up to investigate.