Pretoria, South Africa – Five years after police killed 34 striking mineworkers and injured 78, the government has not delivered justice or reparations for the largest post-apartheid police shooting of civilians. This is despite the finding of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry that bloodshed on 16 August 2012 was wholly avoidable.
On that day, members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) shot 112 mineworkers at Marikana in South Africa’s North West province during an ill-conceived and reckless operation to disperse around 3 000 striking workers from the Lonmin mine.
The only person to date who has faced any consequences is the disgraced former national police commissioner Riah Phiyega. She was suspended on full pay in October 2015 – three years after Marikana – until the Judge Claassen inquiry found in December 2016 that she was unfit to occupy the post of SAPS national commissioner and recommended she be fired.
Despite the judge’s finding and a mountain of evidence that policing and public safety deteriorated substantially under Phiyega, President Jacob Zuma maintained that she was doing a good job and allowed her contract to expire in June this year, so she could keep her generous pension and other benefits. Phiyega is reportedly being allowed to use taxpayers’ money to review findings of both the Farlam and Claassen inquiries. Neither application is likely to succeed.
The ISS closely monitored the Farlam Commission and provided three different expert submissions during proceedings. The first submission was used by Advocate George Bizos as part of his cross examination of Phiyega.
‘Government must demonstrate to South Africans and the world that the senseless loss of life at Marikana has resulted in lessons learned and will never occur again,’ says Gareth Newham, head of the ISS’ Justice and Violence Prevention Programme.
There is still an opportunity to improve public order policing through the panel of experts recommended by the Farlam Commission and established by the minister of police in 2016.
‘The panel will make formal recommendations to Cabinet by the end of the year as to how the SAPS can be further professionalised and public order policing improved in line with our Constitution,’ says Newham, who is a member of the panel. ‘If these recommendations are effectively implemented, then we should see improvements in policing going forward.’
The ISS has indicated several practical ways in which government can demonstrate that lessons have been learned from Marikana:
Clearing up the misconceptions about what happened at Marikana
Farlam Commission findings against the police
For more information and interviews:
Gareth Newham, ISS: +27 82 887 1557, firstname.lastname@example.org