June 30, 2015 (150630)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
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
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
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
The additional AfricaFocus released today, available at
http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/mar1506b.php, includes a
"takeaways" summary by AfricaFocus of a report by Dick Forslund of
the Alternative Information and Development Centre in Cape Town
http://aidc.org.za/), 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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."
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.
AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please
write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin,
or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about
reposted material, please contact directly the original source
mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see