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South Africa: Marikana Perspectives, 1

AfricaFocus Bulletin
June 30, 2015 (150630)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

Almost three years after the killings by police of 44 striking miners at Marikana platinum mine, the official Commission of Inquiry last week released a bland 646-page report, faulting primarily police commanders and apportioning some blame as well among the striking miners themselves, the mining company Lonmin, and two rival unions. However, the Commission said there was not adequate evidence for the responsibility of higher officials. And its recommendations for action on the police responsible were for further investigations.

Although the report met with widespread criticism inside the country from the families of victims and their supporters, as well as other commentators, it gained little attention outside South Africa. For many, the police violence in August 2012, and the close collaboration between the mining company and state officials in repressing a strike by the lowest-paid workers, has made Marikana an emblematic symbol for an era of post-apartheid plutocracy, as did Sharpeville for the apartheid era in the decades following 1960. But neither the South African political and economic establishment nor world public opinion seems to regard accountability or reform in policing or in the mining industry as calling for more than proforma banalities.

For those who want to dig deeper, the 2014 documentary film "Miners Shot Down" ( by far the best and most powerful introduction. Fortunately, it is now available on YouTube, including interviews, police footage, and evidence made available to the Commission. See (note, there are other versions available on-line, but this one has captions and the best technical quality). [link updated September 2016]

This AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out by email, and another released today and available on the web but not sent out by email, contain selected excerpts and summaries of related commentaries and reports.

Below are text excerpts from a Mail & Guardian report featuring photos and narrative on two key points: the killings at "scene 2," where miners were hunted down and shot by police away from the media cameras which recorded "scene 1," and on the housing promised by Lonmin to workers as part of a social responsibility plan that was never implemented.

The additional AfricaFocus released today, available at, includes a "takeaways" summary by AfricaFocus of a report by Dick Forslund of the Alternative Information and Development Centre in Cape Town, documenting how profit shifting within the British company Lonmin and subsidiaries in South Africa and Bermuda hid the fact that the company could have easily paid the demands of the strikers for a living wage, and that neither the South African tax authorities nor the South African Department of Labour carried out their duties to monitor and regulate company actions.

It also includes a detailed commentary by Greg Marinovich, the photographer and writer who covered in depth the strike and the killings at the time.

Other recent commentaries include:

"Commission Makes 'Devastating' Findings Against Police", June 26, 2015

"Marikana Report: The continuing injustice for the people of a lesser God", Ranjeni Munusamy, Daily Maverick, 26 Jun 2015

The full Commission of Inquiry report is available at:

A concise summary is available at:

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Marikana, including links to multiple other sources, see,, and

For additional news reports, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

Marikana: The blame game

Mail & Guardian, June 25, 2015

A special report by Niren Tolsi and Paul Botes

[Excerpts only: full text and photographs at]


On August 16 2012 the South African police shot and killed 34 striking miners at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana. Nearly three years later, on the afternoon of June 25 2015, with no warning to the families of those killed, President Jacob Zuma announced that he would be releasing the report by retired judge Ian Farlam's commission of inquiry into the deaths during the strike -- 44 people in total were killed: 10 people before August 16 -- on national television at 7pm.

At Marikana, the surprise announcement caught the families of the deceased miners and those shot by police on August 16 unawares -- returning home to the news they scurried around to find television sets and radios to hear the president's reading of the report.

Farlam's report absolved the executive, in particular then police minister Nathi Mthetwa and Susan Shabangu, the mineral resources minister at the time, of any responsibility for the deaths.

The Commission did find that Lonmin's failure to fulfil its social and labour plans -- legally binding obligations on which its new order mining rights are dependent -- should be investigated. It also found that police should have stopped their tactical operation after the killing of 17 miners at "scene one". Instead, police continued to another koppie, "scene two", where a further 17 miners were killed.

Mail & Guardian chief photographer Paul Botes and freelance journalist Niren Tolsi have been investigating Marikana's aftermath since 2012. In this special report, they explore evidence before the commission that strongly suggests 17 miners, who posed no threat to the police, were executed by police away from television cameras at "scene two" on August 16 2012.

They also explore housing shortages in Marikana, which was one of the motivating factors behind the 2012 strike and test the current temperature in the North West town which both government and Lonmin appear to have failed.

Marikana Scene 2: No refuge

On August 16, and in the weeks that followed, the world reacted with horror to televised images of South African police firing an eightsecond fusillade at striking miners at Marikana, in the North West province, killing 17 of them.

Away from media cameras, at a koppie about 500 metres away from the large rock where miners had gathered daily during their wage strike, the police then appear to have gone on a "free for-all" killing spree.

About 15 minutes after the shooting at the cattle kraal, described as "scene one" at the subsequent commission of inquiry, police members fired 295 rounds of live ammunition at hundreds of miners hiding on the koppie, where they had run for refuge after witnessing the earlier slaughter.

Evidence before the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, which investigated the 44 deaths during the week-long strike, suggested police had fired with intent and purpose at the koppie. Much of the killing was carried out with execution-style precision: of the 17 miners shot dead at what became known as "scene two", four had bullet wounds in the head or neck; 11 had been shot in the back.

Police evidence presented to the Farlam Commission shows the scene of the killings at Marikana. The Big Koppie is where the miners met daily during the strike; Marikana Scene 1 is the cattle kraal where the first 17 miners were killed by police; and Marikana Scene 2 is the koppie where miners ran to for refuge, but were also shot at by police.


Most were shot dead while hiding in the undergrowth, forensic investigations confirmed. The lifeless body of Nkosiyabo Xalabile, for example, lay wedged behind a boulder, his arms behind him, still crossed – as if they had been restrained in some way. His eyes were still open, suggesting the death had been a painful one.

Xalabile had been shot from above, an R5 bullet tearing through the bottom of the left side of his neck and exiting through his ribs. The shells of the bullets that killed him were found 2.8 metres away, above his body on some rocks. He was huddled at the foot of a tree, among bushes near the rock when he was killed.

He had not, as police later alleged, been attacking them. Nor did he appear to be armed: in early police pictures, there was no evidence of weapons associated with Xalabile. Those taken later showed two metal rods nearby.

Independent pathologists found Xalabile's posture "with hands and wrists crossed at his lower back … (which was) exceedingly strange for a live person with these injuries to adopt". They concluded that the nature of his wounds and his body positioning "opens the possibility that the deceased was handcuffed shortly after the injuries. It suggests that the handcuffs were removed prior to the [police] photography."

Immediate or early medical attention could perhaps have saved Xalabile's life, the pathologists concluded. This may have allowed him to recover and return to his wife of 19 days, Lilitha. "Some mineworkers put their hands [in the] air to show they weren't fighting/attacking the police officers but they were shot."

In their closing arguments, the commission's evidence leaders described the actions of the police as a "free for all". This appeared to have been perpetrated with impunity, and with scant regard for standing orders that require warnings before the use of live ammunition and for the lower body to be targeted. Miners were shot at while hiding and even attempting to surrender. They appear to have been fired on while presenting no immediate threat to the police officers.

In a statement to the commission, miner Nkosikhona Mjuba, who survived scene two, said: "The police officers started shooting the mineworkers with long and short firearms. Some mineworkers put their hands [in the] air to show they weren't fighting/attacking the police officers but they were shot."

Three survivors: Siphete Phatsha cut off his own injured toe trying to escape from the police's bullets. Mzoxolo Mgidiwana was shot down by police, then interrogated and then shot again, this time in the groin. Bathini Nova was shot eight times while trying to surrender.

Recalling how he hid on the koppie almost three years ago, Siphete Phatsha (51) said police seemed to be hunting them down: "I could see police coming into the bushes and shooting at people hiding there. Where I was hiding, they couldn't shoot at me, but I was waiting to die. I thought about my children and I thought about only one thing: that I am leaving my children, and that I am going to die," he said. The father of five from Nqeleni in the Eastern Cape had been at scene one when the Tactical Response Team line opened fire on the miners. He had walked off the koppie alongside strike leader Mgcineni Noki, whose face was then half blown away by highvelocity bullets, and Mzoxolo Magidiwana, who said that police had shot him down, and interrogated him before pumping further shots into his body, including two to the groin that mutilated his penis and scrotum.

Phatsha was shot in the foot but managed to clamber into the cattle kraal at "scene one" to seek refuge with several other miners. There, he lay prostrate, pretending to be dead.


Shadrack Mtshamba, a rock-drill operator at Marikana's Four Belt Shaft, huddled between two rocks quite close to Nova. He also witnessed another miner being mown down while surrendering: "One protester suggested that we should come out of the hiding place with our hands up," Mtshamba said in a statement to the commission.

"[The miner] said 'Guys, let's surrender'," Mashamba stated. "He then went out of the group with his hands raised. He was shot on his hands or arms. He kneeled down and as he tried to stand up, still with his hands up, he was shot in the stomach and he fell down. He then tried to stand up but he was shot at again and he fell down. He tried to crawl but could not do so."

None of the police leaders on the ground provided justifiable reasons for not halting the tactical operation after SAPS shot dead 17 people at "Scene 1".


The police killings at "scene two" also extended to the planting of weapons on at least six dead miners, the Farlam Commission heard.

"This was a totally unacceptable process," the evidence leaders argued. They noted that in the case of one dead miner, Makosandile Mkhonjwa, this "involved adorning his body with four different weapons, none of which were anywhere in the vicinity of his body in the many earlier photographs that we have of his body."

Fifty-six-year-old Thabiso Thelejane was shot twice in the back of the head, leaving a gaping wound 2cm behind his right ear. A second high-velocity bullet struck him on the left side of the head, about 10cm above and 3cm behind his left ear. A third bullet entered his right buttock and lodged in the left side of his pelvis. There were also several abrasions on his knees and forehead.

Thelejane's body was found about 20 metres to the east of Mdizeni, also face down on the ground. There were no weapons around him. The independent pathologists found that he was facing a north-westerly direction and running away from the NIU/K9 line when he was shot in the back of the head. Policing experts at the commission testified that after the killings at scene one, the police operation on August 16 should have been stopped immediately, or at least during the 15 minutes between the two sets of killings.


Major General William Mpembe, the overall commander on the day, told the commission that he was travelling to board a Lonmin helicopter to fly over the area when the shooting happened and had been unaware of it. North West police commissioner Lieutenant General Zukiswa Mbombo testified that she was in the toilet at the time and was, likewise, unaware of the "scene one" killings. Despite being in the Joint Operations Centre when Botes heard the fusillade over the radio, Major General Charl Annandale, the Joint Operations Centre chairperson, testified that he only knew about the killings about 45 minutes after the incident because of radio problems. Yet, less than eight minutes after the fusillade, Brigadier Suzette Pretorius, who was sitting with Ananndale in the Joint Operations Centre, sent a text message to an Independent Police Investigations Directorate official. It read: "Having operation at Wonderkop. Bad. Bodies. Please prepare your members as going to be bad."

The commission's evidence leaders argued that Mbombo, Mpembe, Annandale and Calitz should all be held responsible for the 17 deaths at scene two.

Showhouses and shacks: Life in a 'living hell'


The lack of proper housing for workers who, in the main, lived in shack settlements surrounding its mining operation -- and still do -- was one of the driving factors behind the August 2012 strike at Lonmin that left 44 people dead.

The squalor and deprivation of informal settlements like Nkaneng and Big House is highlighted by the imaginary games children play using heaps of plastic rubbish piled up along informal roads.

Homes are rudimentary shacks made from corrugated scrap metal, wood and cardboard.

Despite a massive power station near Nkaneng, which serves Lonmin's operation, there is no electricity in this settlement where thousands live. Wires for guerrilla electricity connections crisscross underfoot.

Water is sourced from one of the public taps placed sporadically around the community. Many of the standpipes have been dry since 2013 and locals murmur that a R900 payment to the right person will ensure a reconnection.

"This is a living hell," says miner Siphete Phatsha, standing outside the rusted one-room shack he shares with his adult son and nephew, both unemployed job-seekers from the Eastern Cape. Phatsha walks "a long way" with his wheelbarrow to a communal tank to fill 25-litre drums with water for their daily use, and to quench the thirst of his tenderly cared for spinach garden. The garden helps supplement their Spartan meals that centre on stomach-filling pap.

Employed by Lonmin since 2007, Patsha hankers after the dignity that a flush toilet and an electricity switch affords. A formal home with walls to discourage the winter cold would ease his joints and injuries sustained after police shot him during the 2012 strike.


At the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, Lonmin maintained that it had failed to build the 5 500 units because of the 2008 platinum price drop. Any plans to finally add to the three show-houses at Marikana Extension Two have been abandoned, however.

In 2013, the company announced that it had donated the land, about 50 hectares with some serviced stands, to the government.


Lonmin's 2010 annual report estimated that 50% of the population living within a 15km radius of its Marikana operation lived in informal housing and lacked access to basic services such as running water and electricity.

The company provided formal housing, including hostels, for less than 10% of its directly employed staff, which numbered about 24 000 in 2012.

At the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, former Lonmin chief operating officer Mohamed Seedat conceded under cross-examination that housing conditions at Marikana were "truly appalling". He also conceded that the Lonmin's board and executive had, post facto, recognised the link between the critical shortage of affordable housing and the 2012 strike.

Seedat maintained, however, that Lonmin's social and labour plan (SLP) promises did not require the building of houses but were, rather, an obligation to broker an interaction between the company's workers and private financial institutions so that the former could access mortgage bonds.

The evidence leaders at the commission argued that Lonmin's interpretation of their SLP obligations was "not credible" and inconsistent with the terms of the SLPs; the annual SLP reports Lonmin furnished to the department of mineral resources; the company's sustainable development reports and its close-out report to the ministry after five years.

"This attempt by Lonmin to wash its hands of [a legally-binding] obligation that it repudiated must be rejected," the evidence leaders stated in their closing heads of argument.

Even on Lonmin's "implausible" reading of their SLP obligations, the company appears to have failed. In October 2006 it announced to much fanfare and in the presence of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, that it had struck a R318-million housing deal with Rand Merchant Bank.

The bank would put up the financing for housing for 3 000 workers, with Lonmin providing surety in the form of shares if workers were retrenched. The deal was never followed through.

Lonmin ignored its SLP obligations, which were meant to compel mining companies to address structural problems within the mining sector, including the dehumanising migrant labour system, which breaks up nuclear families and contributes to social divisions.

Its transformation committee chairperson, then Lonmin non-executive director and current deputy president of the country, Cyril Ramaphosa, exercised oversight of Lonmin's SLP obligations. Ramaphosa professed to not reading the SLP reports and being unaware of its failures at the commission.

The department of mineral resources, meanwhile, appears incapable of exercising oversight to ensure that Lonmin, alongside many other mining companies, take a more human rights-based approach to transforming their workers' lives.

The Human Rights Commission proposed that Judge Farlam recommend President Jacob Zuma "convene a task team/working group to undertake a full investigation of the underlying causes of the dire living conditions evident in mine-affected communities"

The South African Human Rights Commission, in its closing heads of argument submitted to the Farlam Commission, noted the "failure of the state, the department of mineral resources primarily, to monitor and enforce compliance with SLP obligations, as well as ensuring the necessary government co-operation and co-ordination required to successfully implement projects identified as part of an SLP".

Noting the "frequent failure by mining companies to comply with their SLP obligations" the Human Rights Commission bemoaned an amendment to Farlam's terms of reference which divided its work into "phase one" (an investigation of the events of August 2012) and "phase two" (a broader investigation into the socio-economic context of the mining sector as a whole).

The division, coupled with Lonmin's refusal to hand over crucial company documents until very late in the Farlam hearings, or not at all, hamstrung the commission's ability to make wide-ranging, transformative and human rights-based recommendations, the Human Rights Commission argued.

Lonmin was listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange's 2012 socially responsible index, gaining "best performer" status for its social and environmental work.

The Benchmarks Foundation's Police Gap Seven report released in 2013 noted that between 2003-2007 most of the company's "social capital" went into the Lonmin Community Trust Fund, "which was then rapidly closed down".

While crying post-2008 poverty, the mining house also appeared to be involved in some solipsistic bookkeeping. A report titled "The Bermuda Connection: Profit Shifting and Unaffordability at Lonmin 1999-2012", compiled for the commission by the Alternative Information Centre's Dirk Forslund, alleged large-scale tax avoidance through the movement of profits to a subsidiary in an offshore tax haven, Western Metal Sales.

Despite having two major buyers for its platinum, the company's South African subsidiary, Western Platinum Limited, which produces the majority of the company's platinum group metals was, until 2007, paying 2% of its turnover to Western Metal Sales, registered in Bermuda, as sales commission for marketing services. From 2008 to 2012 this commission totalled R1.2-billion.

The evidence leaders calculated that in 2006-2011, when Lonmin could have built the 5 500 houses for its employees at a cost of R665- million, it had spent R1.3-billion on "marketing" commissions to a subsidiary.

The Human Rights Commission proposed that retired judge Ian Farlam recommend a full investigation into Lonmin's SLP compliance.

It further proposed that Farlam recommend President Jacob Zuma "convene a task team/ working group to undertake a full investigation of the underlying causes of the dire living conditions evident in mine-affected communities" and the department of mineral resources "undertake a strategic and detailed review of the deficiencies and failures of the SLP system identified in the commission's work, and to propose amendments, revisions or new initiatives to improve compliance with the legal and regulatory framework that establishes the SLP system."

Lonmin were unable to respond to questions about their housing and hostel conversion projects initiated after being granted their new order mining rights in time for publication. Nor did the company respond to questions relating to their transfer pricing activity during the period 2006-2012.

In October 2014, in response to questions from amaBhungane -- the M&G's investigative unit -- pertaining to the 2% of annual turnover payments to the Bermuda-based subsidiary Western Metal Sales, Lonmin spokesperson Sue Vey said: "This company [Western Metal Sales] has long been dormant and is no longer in use."

A time of retrenchments: Marikana in 2015

[For this section see full report at]

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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