Thousands attend one year anniversary of 'Marikana' strikers deaths
8/21/2013, 11:01 a.m. | Updated on 8/21/2013, 11:01 a.m.
Aug. 20 (GIN) – At the commemoration of the first anniversary of the Marikana Massacre, named for the platinum mine where police shot and killed 34 striking workers, government officials were conspicuously absent from the event which drew thousands of unionized mine workers.
At the memorial, organized by church leaders and labor officials, twenty reserved seats stood empty, representing the rejection by the African National Congress of the unofficial Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which took on the mine owners, leaving the official National Union of Mineworkers in the dust.
Reporter Kadijah Patel of the South Africa Mail & Guardian, called the memorial “unprecedented in South Africa’s post-Apartheid history.”
She recalled: “Throngs of workers came to the ceremony dressed in the green t-shirts of AMCU.“ They stood outside on small hills, facing the stage in the blazing heat, listening intently to the speakers. And across the sea of people, there were no visible references to the ANC or National Union of Mineworkers. There were no flags, t-shirts, or posters hinting at the ruling party or its alliance partners.”
Some of the feuding between the official and “unofficial” labor group spilled into the open when a spokesperson for the ANC in North West province, said acidly: "The ANC finds it immoral and totally unacceptable that such a traumatic incident could be turned into a political playground by some political parties who seek to enhance their political ambitions and interests.“
The ANC’s national spokesperson, Jackson Mthembu, stepped back from the biting remark saying: "The ANC respects the right of anyone to organize and participate in any gathering that seeks to soothe and heal the wounds that were caused by the Marikana tragedy. No one should ever seek to determine and direct how people must mourn nor contest ownership of the right to mourn.“
Even mineowner Ben Magara apologized to the families of those who died in the massacre saying it “should never have happened”.
An inquiry into the shooting is underway. But in another blow to the workers, the North Gauteng High Court declined to order the president and the justice minister to fund the case of 250 mineworkers before the Constitutional Court.
The decision leaves hundreds of men personally involved in the strike, who lost friends and in the case of about 78 of them survived injuries, with no legal say in the inquiry.