MOULANA MTHOKOZISI IBRAHIM MASEKO argues that the ANC’s actions around the Marikana Massacre prove that it isn’t acting in the interest of the oppressed.
2012 is mainly remembered as a year of sadness and sorrow that tainted strides made by South African citizens throughout the democratic dispensation. This taint occurred through the Marikana Massacre on August 16, 2012, a day remembered for the merciless killing of 34 miners by South African law enforcement for demanding a wage increment. This killing was coupled with a concerted effort by the government to prevent Marikana miners from direct salary negotiations with their employer, Lonmin plc. By doing so, the government openly demonstrated the side it chose between the proletariat and the capitalist elite.
A merciless killing of peaceful protestors whose only demand was an increase of wages by a revolutionary party that ushered in the democratic dispensation is difficult to reconcile with democratic ideals of freedom and the right to life, especially since public demonstrations are an integral part of a vibrant democratic polity. Worse than that is reconciling this act of police brutality with claims that the South African democratic constitution is the best in the world. One can only wonder about the role of this constitution in the increasing social and economic inequality that led to the Marikana miners’ protest and police brutality, despite the former rightfully demanding what is due to them. We can also only wonder why this ‘glorious constitution’ fails to guide us in holding those responsible for this gruesome act to account. This enquiry also leads to questions such as who does this constitution really aim to serve? Who concluded that it is the best in the world and on what merit? For whom is it best?
A demand for a wage increment in a South African democracy is a legitimate pursuit linked to the ‘A better life for all’ ideal, sloganised by the ANC as its electioneering rallying cry. It is clear that, according to the ANC, the better life for the Marikana miners was poverty at all costs, whose challenge and opposition was bound to render them deserving of death, and remains a painful reminder of the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960. In this massacre, 69 peacefully demonstrating civilians were murdered by the apartheid police force for appealing to its humanity by demanding the abandonment of the segregationist pass law.
The Marikana Massacre is also a confusing phenomenon when contrasted with the Sharpeville Massacre, raising questions about the incarnation of the apartheid spirit through the ANC. Above all, it questions the reliability of the founding principles of the ANC and its genuine commitment to pursuing a better life for all South Africans. The fact that the ANC saw it reasonable to appoint Cyril Ramaphosa as deputy president shortly after the Marikana Massacre and thereafter elect him as president of the ANC despite being at the forefront of the Marikana Massacre is baffling.
Furthermore, it casts doubts on the ANC’s genuine commitment to its slogan of ‘A better life for all’, which – to many citizens – reflects the ANC version of the South African dream upon which it built voters’ trust. Moreover, it compels South Africans to question the principles of the ANC and wonder who it really represents in parliament other than the poor masses. Clearly, the promise of a better life seems not allotted for the poor of this country, as it was certainly not meant for the Marikana miners.
The year 2022 marks ten years since the Marikana Massacre, and the South African government is yet to discharge the R1-billion it committed to compensating families of the 34 miners it killed. While the killing of Marikana miners has resulted in a huge cost for the ANC – forcing it to adjust to the consequences of one false promise (i.e., a better life for all) to another (i.e., compensating for the Marikana Massacre) – it has also resulted in major damage to its political image and revolutionary status. This damage is beyond PR repairs and requires a genuine commitment to reversing social and economic inequalities, which might restore citizens’ trust in the ANC’s electioneering rallying cry.
Apart from drawing parallels between the Sharpeville Massacre and Marikana Massacre, one can only wonder about the quality of life and freedom in post-apartheid South Africa. Undoubtedly, the apartheid regime’s vision was evil in that it extended the institutionalisation of segregation begun by colonialism and systematically sowed the seeds of many of the problems we face today. However, for 46 years (1948-1994) the apartheid regime was fervently committed to this vision and executed it with great vigour until it lay on its political deathbed. The question is: looking at the aftermath of the Marikana Massacre, how committed is the ANC regime in reversing this apartheid legacy, and to what extent does it demonstrate the capability to do so?
In closing, the Marikana Massacre has shown the extent of the journey for freedom and dignified life still ahead for us. It has also shown that we need to begin asking our political leaders serious questions linked to their commitment and ability to reverse the apartheid regime and observe the consistency between their commitments and action. It is the outcome of that observation that should ultimately guide us in deciding who really is capable of taking this country forward.
- Moulana Mthokozisi Ibrahim Maseko is an essayist, activist, hafidh and former imam. He is also a Masters student at University of Johannesburg and is interested in subjects – some of which he writes opinion pieces and short articles about – on topical issues, current affairs and matters of reflection around religion, contemporary issues and the 4IR; socio-politics, South African public and foreign policy, knowledge production, de-coloniality, and civilisations, civilians and civility. This article is based on the writer’s in-depth paper, ‘Marikana, what have you done to our fathers? An appraisal of the ANC version of the South African dream’.