The lessons of Marikana

Seven years ago, on August 16th 2012, South African police opened fire on striking miners at the Marikana platinum mine, killing 34 of them.

The mine was owned by London-based mining company Lonmin (better known by its earlier name of Lonrho) one of whose directors at the time was Cyril Ramaphosa, now President of South Africa.  It seems certain that the police action was deliberately planned and had the backing of powerful people in the South African government.

No one has been prosecuted for the murders and the campaigners called for justice and for compensation for the workers families. Lonmin have attempted to evade their responsibilities and the company was sold in May 2019 to South African mining corporation Sibanye-Stillwater for $226 million. This is a company with a terrible safety record – 20 mineworkers were killed in its mines in the first six months of 2018 – and the Lonmin shareholders and London asset management companies, Investec and Majedie are major investors in Sibanye-Stillwater.

Legally the new owners have inherited the liabilities of Lonmin and are responsible for compensation for their crimes at Marikana.

The protest took place outside the South Africa Embassy in Trafalgar Square where for 1408 days and nights the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group staged their non-stop picket for the release of Nelson Mandela, beginning in 1986. That picket was firmly opposed by both the South African government and the Metropolitan Police who harassed it in various ways, attempting to ban it and making 171 arrests.

Today’s commemoration was again opposed by an embassy employee, who came out and told the protesters they had to move, but they took no notice, and after the embassy had closed for the day they decorated its gates and walls with the pictures of the murdered miners and yellow flowers. The police ignored the event.

A number of those taking part had also taken part in that earlier non-stop picket. Although Mandela was released and we have a new South Africa, much of the exploitation that was present in the old continues, though at times with some new masters. But the colonial domination and extraction of African wealth by London-based companies (and those from other wealthy nations) continues – and the Marikana massacre demonstrates that little has changed.

Justice for Marikana – 7 years on

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