The Strike that Will Forever Haunt South Africa
By Mpho Raphata
When you go through a traumatic experience, one hopes that in the end, it will change your life for the better. You hope that when lives are lost, they will mean something to someone.
One also goes to work to make a living, having a job is also most more often than not, associated with having a better life, not just for the individual but for your children and your entire extended family.
When you embark on strike action, there is always hope that a resolution found will be in your favour. No one bargains for the loss of life.
In Marikana five years ago, 44 people died in violent strike action for wages. All the miners were looking for was R12, 500 per month.
What happened thereafter with investigations, arrests, authorities pointing fingers at each other is nothing compared to the pain of losing a loved one. The reality that your father, husband or breadwinner is no longer there. That your life has changed for the worst.
Five years later, the widows of those men who were killed there are worse off. They still live in informal homes. They are still looking for that better life that their husbands were fighting for.
Speaking to Kays FM, Primrose Sonti, the co-founder of Sikhala Sonke, told of how those women are still struggling. Sonti founded the organisation in response to the poverty and pain that the women of Marikana live in, Sonti and a friend started the organisation to empower women in the community of Marikana. Sikhala Sonke aims to also impart skills and development to the women and children who were orphaned and widowed by the massacre.
Sikhala Sonke then became the subject of a documentary that will be screened here in Johannesburg and in some cinema in London today telling the story of Marikana and where the community finds itself today. Sonti and two other women plan to stage a protest outside Lonmin offices in London today calling for change. They will protest how the company dealt with the strike that led to the massacre and its aftermath and consequences.
Just yesterday, Lonmin unveiled apartments built for workers in Marikana, which miners say are expensive. A one bedroom unit is said to cost R750 a month while a two bedroom unit is R1300 which miners say they cannot afford. The company also unveiled plans of a memorial that will be erected in honour of those who were killed in the blood bath that ended in 34 miner workers losing their lives.
While all this is happening, former police commissioner Riah Phiyega is still to fully account for her part in the deaths. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has since apologised for the emails he allegedly sent to Lonmin apparently telling them to act on the striking miners. While others get to live another day, others we ambushed with assault rifles and left to die.
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