Negotiations between state and claimants are progressing on Marikana massacre settlement

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Negotiations between the State and claimants in the Marikana tragedy are making progress in the North Gauteng High Court. This comes after agreements were reached, resulting in the settlement of damages claims of just over 10 miners affected by the tragedy so far.

11 out of just over 54 miners have reached settlements with the State in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria over their general damages claim regarding the Marikana tragedy.

Attorney for the miners, Andries Nkome explains how they achieved this.

“The case before the court is for the fact that the state has accepted liability for the massacre that took place in Marikana now the second step would be for the calculation of the amounts that are supposed to be paid over to the claimants, we are claiming for past loss of earnings, past medical expenses, which are losses of earnings, future medical expenses as well as general damages so I am glad to say that we have been able to find one another in so far as the larger portion of the claims.”

34 miners were killed and at least 78 others wounded on 16 August 2012. It’s almost a decade later and miners who live to tell the tale, have seen some relief in the form of settlements. However, one who wants to remain anonymous says the pain of the events still haunts them.

“The way I was injured, I was shot in the leg, my leg ….I have a bullet in my buttocks …as you see me I walk with metal in my legs, I walk with metal: I have not forgiven in my spirit because I see ….there are many things I cannot do anymore….”

Despite these developments, the fight in the Marikana massacre is not over; some miners still intend to challenge the mines and President Cyril Ramaphosa in his personal capacity for Constitutional damages.

Negotiations between the State and claimants in the Marikana tragedy are making progress:

Turning point for organised labour in SA 

The Marikana Tragedy marked a turning point for organised labour in South Africa. Thousands of miners embarked on a wildcat strike and 34 were killed by the police.

The two major unions Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) experienced rivalry ahead of the strike. Workers defected to AMCU because they felt NUM was too comfortable with management.

A labour expert says that the past decade presented an opportunity for unions to improve their governance but this has not been achieved.

About 3 000 workers embarked on an unprotected strike on 9 August 2012, demanding a monthly salary of R12 500. NUM said the strike was not sanctioned by the union. Reports of intimidation were rife ahead of the strike.

The rivalry between members of the National Union of Mineworkers and members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union continued. Some shop stewards and members of the two unions were sporadically murdered after the Marikana tragedy.

The situation has calmed down as evidenced in the gold mining sector when NUM and AMCU embarked on a joint strike demanding better wages for their members. A decade later, some unions believe there has been improvement in inter-union relationships.

“A couple of years ago yes there were intimidation, a lot of intimidation but it seems like in the last few years, we grew up and intimidation and the working relationship between unions is much better. I think we realized that we are here for the workers as unions and also for health and safety,” Nico Van Rooyen of UASA explains.

But NUMSA which has made inroads into the platinum mining sector feels unwelcome.

“There is no unity between us and AMCU in the platinum belt. This is despite the fact that they are organising in some of our traditional sectors. And there is nothing that we are doing against them.  As things stand, we have not had any mutual…from any of the union organising in the mining sector,” says Numsa Rustenburg Secretary, Phestus Motshabi.

AMCU general secretary Jeff Mphahlele disputes this.

“When we came to the platinum belt, there were unions. They all were really having it nice but unfortunately, we had to turn the tables and make our presence felt. We recruited vigorously but we have said as AMCU everybody can recruit in the platinum belt or elsewhere where we all exist, provided that you will follow the right steps,” says Mphahlele.

While advocating for worker unity, others are questioning whether the 2012 strike was really worth it. NUM secretary in Rustenburg Geoffrey Moatshe says, “One question that one asks is, what did workers benefit out of that exercise? And at the time workers striked for R12 500 but in the process the main question that remains is who benefited out of the process, and one can come to conclusion that it was business opportunism at the expense of the poor workers, because I don’t think workers out of that strike have benefited to date.”

Jeff Mphahlele of AMCU says the objectives of 2012 have been achieved.

“There’s no member in some of these big companies whose now earning R12, 000 for that matter, any general member, there’s nothing like that. They are all above. And we have achieved. At the end of this five year period that we have signed with these companies now, nobody will be earning less than 20,000 in the platinum belt,” Mphahlele added.

Labour expert, Mamokgethi Molopyane says unions have yet to improve their work ethic.

“Marikana presented an opportunity for unions in a way, to re-evaluate themselves in how they communicate with their members in how their members perceive the leaders as either being accessible or inaccessible and remedy that. And I do not think that has happened since the event of Marikana. However, there has been lessons that the longer it takes for union leaders to respond to grievances, the more it simmers into something much more worse and spreads throughout the unions,” says Molopyane.

The tenth Marikana Massacre Commemoration will be held at Marikana next Tuesday.