LONMIN CEO Ben Magara apologised to the families of those who died in a massacre during a strike at its Marikana platinum mine a year ago, saying it “should never have happened”.
“We will never replace your loved ones,” he said. “We are truly sorry for that, and to these bereaved families we give our deepest condolences. Lonmin cannot replace your loved ones but can only soften your pain.”
Magara repeated the platinum miner’s commitment to fund the education of the 147 dependent children of the deceased up to university level.
He said he had also heard requests made by Lonmin workers during a commemoration event in Marikana on Friday and was prepared to sit down and talk.
Thousands of people gathered on Friday near the kopje where the striking mineworkers died last year. About 3,000 workers, mostly rock-drill operators, had camped on the kopje for days last year leading up to the bloody stand-off with the police.
Survivors of the massacre who recounted the event to the crowd on Friday repeated their demand for a basic wage of R12,500 a month. They also asked Lonmin to allow each bereaved family to provide a replacement for those who died.
“I am here today to say, let us sit down and talk. This week we signed an agreement with your union which gives us a chance to sit down,” said Magara, who was appointed to the post only a month ago.
However, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) president Julius Malema – by far the most popular figure to address the crowd – urged workers not to accept Lonmin’s apology as the company “has blood on its hands.”
“It is Lonmin together with the ANC (African National Congress) government that killed our people,” said the EFF president and former ANC Youth League leader, who had championed the call for the nationalisation of South Africa’s mines before he was expelled from the ANC in April last year.
“It is you, Lonmin! You have blood on your hands. If you had not refused to meet those workers they would not have been killed. Today, you come here and say nothing. You say we will talk about the R12,500. Lonmin, you will not be our friend until you give the R12,500.”
Malema said it was impossible to talk peace when no one had yet taken responsibility for the massacre.
“We are told: be peaceful. But with who? All of them are still in their positions. Riah Phiyega is still the police commissioner, Nathi Mthethwa is still the minister of police and (Jacob) Zuma is still the president. Yet our brothers are dead,” he said.Advertisement
Friday’s commemoration event featured prayers and speeches, as well as appeals from workers for people to donate money to help fund the legal fees of the survivors at the Farlam commission, which is probing the killing of 44 people during the strike in August 2012.
Two survivors of the massacre who addressed the crowd appealed to all present, especially those in the “VIP tent”, to donate cash to pay for their legal defence.
The injured and arrested miners have brought an application before the Constitutional Court appealing against a North Gauteng High Court judgment that refused them legal support for their representation. The court on Friday postponed delivering its ruling on the matter to Monday.
Various opposition parties addressed the gathering, which the ANC and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) boycotted.
The ANC said on Thursday the commemoration was organised by “an illegitimate team called ‘Marikana support group’ — a group which the ANC does not recognise. The ANC will only participate in a commemoration organised by government, as agreed with families, Lonmin platinum mine and labour unions.”
The NUM also cited the signing of a “winner takes all” recognition accord between its rival Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and Lonmin as a reason.
Magara said the agreement with Amcu was inclusive of other “minority unions”.