JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The killings at the Marikana mine of Lonmin Platinum symbolise that South Africa may be reaching points of crisis that need to be nipped in the bud, says African National Congress National Executive Committee member Joel Netshitenzhe.
Last week’s violent illegal strike and police shootout at the London-listed Lonmin operation has left 34 dead, 78 injured and more than 200 arrested, after ten – including two policemen – had died earlier in separate violent clashes at the mine in the North West province.
“This is the kind of tragic event that justifies a judicial commission of enquiry,” says Netshitenzhe (also see attached video), who addressed the Ruth First Memorial debates in Johannesburg.
Although President Jacob Zuma announced on Friday that a commission of enquiry would be appointed to investigate the killings, a weekend news report defined that further as a judicial commission of enquiry, for which the terms of reference were being formulated.
Netshitenzhe says the judicial commission needs to include in its terms of reference the use of violence by citizens, the concept of the State as the legitimate bearer of weapons and the State’s monopoly position in the use of force.
He says other questions requiring responses include how the new Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) mobilises and how the established National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) responds to that mobilisation.
“For a legitimate democratic system to experience something like this symbolises that we might be reaching points of crisis of legitimacy if we don’t nip this in the bud,” says Netshitenzhe.
Weekend replays of an Aljazeera Television clip show a gunman in the advancing group of mainly traditional-weapon-carrying strikers taking aim at the police and seemingly firing in their direction prior to the officers of the law opening fire with live ammunition.
The sound on the television clip suggests a police switch from rubber bullets to live ammunition after the resonance of gunfire emanating from the advancing worker group.
A CNN television clip shows police retrieving a handgun from one of the victims after their burst of automatic fire into advancing striking group.
Lonmin nonexecutive board member and Shanduka Resources head Cyril Ramaphosa urged that the outcome of the enquiry should be awaited before apportioning blame.
Shanduka, which owns the majority shareholding in Incwala Resources, Lonmin’s black economic-empowerment partner, will contribute R2-million towards the burial of those killed.
Chamber of Mines of South Africa president Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi said that the chamber had delegated its VP to mediate between AMCU and NUM on the basis of the tragedy being national rather than issue affecting Lonmin alone.
Weekend media called on the enquiry to include the source of the weapons borne by the striking miners and the alleged shortage of police water canons to deal with situations of unrest.
Johan Burger of the Institute of Security Studies was quoted as saying that there are only ten water canons in the country.