Remembering Marikana: Should 16 August be a public holiday?

Judge John Hlophe has called for 16 August to be marked as a public holiday in commemoration of the Marikana massacre according to The Citizen.

The massacre, the largest killing by government since freedom, claimed 34 lives.

Hlophe said that Marikana was similar to the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre and the 1976 Soweto Youth Uprising, saying the only difference was the other two massacres occurred under a racist regime.

The police claimed that they were fired upon by the protesters, however according to the TimesLIVE The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) released a report on scene two of the massacre, where 17 of the miners were killed, that found that the cops were not under threat.

Not only that, but the Farlam Inquiry into the massacre found that the evidence did not match up to the police’s claims, and thus rejected the police account of the events of the day.

The ISS states that the real motivation for the massacre was out of a feeling of revenge for the killing of two police officers earlier that week.

My Take

In 2009 IOL reported that Bheki Cele called for the law to change so that officers could ‘shoot to kill’ criminals and not have to worry about “what happens after that”.

The IOL report also mentions that Cele’s term as MEC for community safety in KwaZulu Natal had more deaths in police custody under review than any other province. Cele’s philosophy at the time was “shoot before you get shot.”

Andries Tatane was killed by police in 2011, being beaten by a group of officers after he tried to protect a group of elderly protesters from being hit with a water cannon.

This was during a service delivery protest where 4000 Meqheleng residents marched on the Ficksburg municipal offices.

In June of 2012, prior to the Marikana massacre, Cele had lost his position as national police chief after a report by then public protector Thuli Madonsela found he was involved in inflated lease deals.

Riah Phiyega became the country’s first female police commissioner and in August of 2012, the massacre happened.

In February of 2018, Cyril Ramaphosa appointed Bheki Cele as the minister of police.

In March, eNCA reported that Cele said, “Human rights are for people not for animals, because if you take a gun and plan to go and shoot a police officer who is off duty … then you are not a human.”

What I am getting at here is that Marikana was years in the making, with smaller but still significant instances leading up to it.

And we’re seeing a recurring pattern. I disagree with claims that Ramaphosa ordered the massacre to protect his Lonmin profits, I think the protests ran the risk of becoming a riot, two cops had already been killed, anybody would have called in the police.

But to make Cele minister of police strikes me as, at the very least, not learning from prior mistakes.

If all we get out of Marikana is another day off in August, then I’m not sure that it counts as remembering much of anything. We should be looking at how to prevent this sort of thing happening again, not just beating our chests over it having happened.


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