Monday, June 20, 2016

“The Land of the haves and the have-nots”

Section 9 of the SA constitution says: “Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.” [1]

This is the book that is supposed to guide us, our Bible on democracy and way of life. Drafted in 1996, it was meant to guide our every decision, to maintain equality, our rights and freedom of every human being.  However, in our current state equality and/or freedom is measured in terms of the haves and the have-nots. This was witnessed in 2012 when the police, Lonmin and the government massacred the Marikana miners and managed to get away with it.

In 2012 we witnessed one of our first post-apartheid massacres when 34 miners were killed for asking for a salary increase. For months following that event we were made to believe that the police shot and killed the miners in self-defence. “Police had to employ force to protect themselves from the charging group” [2].

Rehad Desai then exposed the lies to us all when he filmed a documentary titled "Miners Shot Down", which details all the events that took place six days before the massacre. He shows us how the union failed to protect the victims. “Miners Shot Down scratches the surface to reveal there were many more factors that contributed to this deadly encounter.” [3]

In his documentary he used the security tapes, photojournalism, emails that were exchanged during the whole ordeal, photos and interviews with the victims, journalists, politicians, lawyers and also snippets of the court during the Farlam Commission of Inquiry. This documentary portrays how those with no and/ or less voice are victimised by those who hold most power.
 “The film…thoroughly exposes the mishandling of the striking miners by the South African Police Service. [This is done] through the extensive excruciating graphic massacre footage that Desai accessed from the Lonmin security and police archives,” (M&G) [4].  National Mineworkers Union (NUM), a union which exists to serve the grievances of the miners, failed to do their job when miners were brutally murdered in front of them. The South African Police Services claim their reason for opening fire is because the miners were out for blood, yet the movie clearly proves the fallacy of the SAPS statement.

 When the strike commenced on the 10th of August 2012, the security video shows us the miners (without weapons) going to the Lonmin building. Leaders were the ones who went and spoke to the employers but they would not heed their call. Desai’s sequence then moves to the workers, as they decide that they will occupy the mountain because they believe/d that the mountain is nobody’s property. This again is another clear example that indicates that the miners were in no way propagating violence.

 Lonmin decided that they will only listen to the miners if they communicate through NUM. However, one miner explains that: “When they went to the offices of NUM they were shot at, at the time they had not even started explaining the reason why they were there” (sic) [2]. Two people were shot and that’s when they decided that they will rather occupy the mountain while they wait to be attended to.

The company then started deploying security personnel and the police were involved as the matter needed to be dealt with immediately revealed the emails. The emails were between the likes of Cyril Ramaphosa, Nathi Mthetwa and Susan Shabangu - to name just a few.  “I spoke to Susan Shabangu…she agrees. She is going into Cabinet and will brief the President as well and get the minister of police Nathi Mthetwa to act in a more pointed away” (sic) [2]. These emails were followed by a deployment of more police who then murdered 34 mineworkers. This was done in a manner that brought tears to many South Africans.
The police (as the video shows) made sure that they were shooting to kill. One of the leaders “Mambush” was shot 14 times, as if once was not enough?
This event “was the biggest incident of police brutality since the advent of democracy and it revived memories of the brutality suffered under Apartheid security police,” [5]. A phone call changed the negotiations that were going smoothly - suddenly the SAPS were on a killing spree.  This shows me that the whole thing was orchestrated - the police would not listen to the miners, even when AMCU (a union which attempted to represent them) leader Joseph Mathunjwa tried speaking to the miners was told not to go anywhere near them.   Mathunjwa probed this act; “Why should I not go there, they are humans”, he asked, because he saw the ill-treatment they were enduring.

The miners who had pledged their lives into serving the company, at the first chance they tried raising their voices; they were kept quiet by being killed. This is the current society that we live in. Every day we see politicians and the bourgeoisie progressing through the blood and sweat of other people.

All they needed to do was just listen - but because they are above the law, above what the constitution outlines, they got away with murder. Even when the president appointed the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, the miners and their families were not made aware of this. These are the people the Commission was meant to serve but were sidelined.

Police brutality has become a norm. According to the law, a police officer can shoot in self-defence, but the ones in Marikana shot the miners to stop them from striking. The law is so unjust because as it stands now, the people who are facing charges are the same people who lost their colleagues, friends and almost lost their lives. What about the instigators? What happened to the general who was leading the police during the massacre? What about Barnard Mokoena?

The ‘haves’ continue living their lavish lives while the miners, and the victims' widowers are barely surviving.

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996
Miners Shot Down , 2014, Directed by Rehad Desai, South Africa