1 May 2015
Shortly after the Marikana massacre, when the nation was still reeling from the gunning down of 34 young men by South African Police, you told us,
“We have to uncover the truth about what happened here. In this regard I’ve decided to institute a commission of inquiry. The inquiry will enable us to get to the real cause of the incident.”
You also told us that,
“In a very short space of time, we will announce the results.”
It has now been one month since you received the findings of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the deaths of those young men. The commission also looked into the injuries of the 78 who survived the attack, and the circumstances under which 10 other men died in the days preceding the 16th.
You must, President Jacob Zuma, be painfully aware that the families of those who died, have had to wait patiently for 2 years and 8 months for some kind of explanation, many attending the commission day in day out, listening to various parties give evidence, hoping that all of this time, money and effort will lead to a just outcome.
But what would a just outcome look like? Firstly it would have to involve the truth, as much of it as possible, however painful. The families deserve to know why their loved ones were gunned down by police using R5 rifles. They deserve to know what discussions were had by Police, by Lonmin, and by your Cabinet in the run up to the massacre. They deserve to know what preparations were made for the 16th, why mortuary vans were ordered on the morning before the attack, and why paramedics were prevented from assisting those injured in the crucial hour after the shooting took place. They deserve to know what is going to happen next. Who is going to be held accountable? These are questions that any relative would deserve to have answered as an outcome of a murder inquiry.
We do not know if the answers to these important questions are to be found in the final report of the Farlam Commission. We know that you set about to establish the commission not just to restore calm at the time, but because you wanted to get to the truth. How else could you justify such a lengthy and expensive process?
But there is something else at stake here. In the aftermath of the massacre there was a collective weeping for our democracy. The massacre reminded us of the horrors of apartheid. So many had suffered and even given up their lives to restore our people to dignity. Nobody would expect that the might of the state would be brought down on a group of low paid workers under an ANC government. In a constitutional democracy it is not a crime to go on strike, or to demand a meeting with ones employer. Some notable people have even said that what happened at Marikana was worse than massacres like Sharpeville, because it was planned.
Whatever one believes, Marikana will live with us as the greatest blight on our democracy to date. After the massacre you told people that,
“Today is not an occasion for blame, finger-pointing or recrimination.”
With the completion of the Farlam Commission Report surely that day has come? We would like therefore to remind you that you promised that the results would be announced in a very short space of time. The immediate release of the unedited report can take us one step closer to the truth, and in so doing honoring the rights and dignity of the people of South Africa. We believe that this will also be an important step in restoring faith in our democracy.
You, President Jacob Zuma, are the only person who can make the decision on when the report is released. We therefore appeal to you to make the unedited Farlam Commission Report immediately available. If you are not able to do this, we request an explanation for why you are not willing to give the public full access to these findings.
Documentary filmmaker and Spokesperson of the Marikana Support Campaign
Chair of Social History, University of Witwatersrand
Director: Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu Natal
National Secretary of the DLF
Former Minister of Intelligence and struggle veteran
Former General Secretary COASTU
Professor Peter Alexander
South African Research Chair in Social Change, University of Johannesburg
Emeritus Professor in Sociology, University of Witwatersrand
Professor Thea de Wet
Director: Centre for Anthropological Research, University of Johannesburg.
Professor Farid Esack
Head of Religion Studies, University of Johannesburg
Associate Professor in Sociology, University of the Western Cape
Professor in Sociology Rhodes University
Dr. Dale McKinley
Independent writer, researcher and lecturer
Professor of Journalism, University of Johannesburg
Prof Natasha Erlank
Head of Historical Studies, University of Johannesburg
Prof Karl von Holdt
Director Society Work and Development Institute, University of Witwatersrand
Prof Steven Friedman
Director: Centre for the Study of Democracy, Rhodes University/University of Johannesburg
Prof Devan Pillay
Head: Dept. of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand