South African remembers mine massacre

  • 17/08/2015
South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is silhouetted in the Farlam Commission, in Centurion (Reuters)
South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is silhouetted in the Farlam Commission, in Centurion (Reuters)

The leaders of South Africa's two main opposition parties have joined thousands of people north of Johannesburg to mark the third anniversary of the Marikana massacre of 34 striking platinum miners.

The shooting of the mineworkers on August 16, 2012 was the worst violence involving the security forces since the end of apartheid in 1994, and shocked South Africa and the world.

Sunday's memorial ceremony took place at Wonderkop Hill northwest of Johannesburg where the massacre occurred, and was attended by Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance and Julius Malema, the firebrand leader of the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party.

The miners were gunned down after the police were deployed to break up a wildcat strike that had turned violent at the Lonmin-owned Marikana platinum mine, about 130km from Johannesburg.

Ten others were killed in the days preceding the incident, including two police officers and four non-striking workers.

"The 16th of August is about Lonmin working with the state to kill black people," Malema said at the podium to cheers from the crowd.

The victims, he said, had fallen at the hands of a "murderous regime led by the ANC (African National Congress) and its brainless president".

"We are here today to remember those fighters," he said.

Speaking after him, Maimane said the conditions under which the massacre took place three years ago had not changed.

"This ANC government is protecting one person, who is President (Jacob) Zuma, instead of protecting the people of South Africa," he said.

No representative of the government nor of the ruling ANC were present at the memorial and no official ceremony has ever been held in South Africa.

Earlier Zuma issued a statement saying he hoped the anniversary would "unite" all South Africans.

"Nobody supports the horrendous loss of life that occurred in Marikana," he said.

"We must commit ourselves to ensuring that never again would a strike turn so violent as to lead to such a senseless loss of life in a free and democratic South Africa."

He said the recommendations of a long-awaited report into the shooting, published in June, were "being taken seriously" by the government.

In its findings, the commission of inquiry called for a criminal investigation into the police who were involved in the incident but it cleared senior government officials of any responsibility.

Earlier this week, lawyers for the families of the victims filed a civil suit against the government demanding compensation for the loss of earnings, grief and shock incurred.