Marikana Day – An Admission of Guilt
By Tunicia Phillips
There are two public holidays in South Africa dedicated to the unlawful and unjustifiable death of hundreds of people, at the hands of the state. Human Rights Day, and Youth Day.
It’s easy to stand at a commemoration podium in all your self-righteous glory and verbally crucify the ‘enemy’ for the pain and suffering it has brought onto so many families. A questionably objective speech aimed at shooting human rights sentiments for the 700 people who died at the hands of police during the Soweto uprising, or the 60 similar fatalities in Sharpville which subsequently became the poster event for human rights. How dare we even consider that these tragedies and the commemorations thereof are by any means used to further the political agenda.
No state hosted commemoration event is adorned with the opposition blues and reds of the day, nor has mass death ever rendered the political agenda neutral in the name of human rights. The deaths of 44 people during a wildcat strike in Marikana in August 2012 has arguably shifted the political agenda to such an extreme extent that it would be a cold day in hell before Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, or the ruling ANC party actually played host to that fateful day’s commemoration. In the case of both Human Rights and Youth Day the enemy state is clear. The government of the day must be thrashed for its role in the deaths of the suppressed nation. But in the case of Marikana, things could get a bit tricky when the enemy now stands in a dual contradiction with its two feet hanging on both sides of the fence. When the government of the day are both the heroes to a previous era, and the villains of the new, it’s no longer surprising that opposition parties and unions will start calling themselves militant revolutionaries. Neither the pro ANC, National Union of Mineworkers attended the third commemoration of the Mariakan massacre, nor the ANC. Even calling the events of August, 16 a massacre poses a serious challenge for the ruling party and its allies.
Both Sharpville and the Soweto Uprising tally a greater number of deaths than Marikana, but the similarities are too similar to ignore. It’s been three years and still the Koppie is without a commemoration plaque, families are still fighting for compensation and justice. Now they are calling for a public holiday in the name of the killings that day, a call I doubt will materialise while the ANC remains in government. A public holiday or that commemoration monument would be an admission of guilt. They are on the other side of the fence. The side that in this case, no longer represents the fight for a better, justice filled life when it puts a thorn in the political agenda. I hope the fight for this holiday is successful; I simply look forward to hearing a speech by a police minister, commissioner, president and deputy president at the state hosted commemoration event for that day.