On Thursday, the families of the victims of the Marikana Massacre marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. They were accompanied by political organisations such as the UDM, COPE, DA, EFF and others. The marchers were hoping to persuade the presidency to fund the lawyers who represent the victims and their families at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.
Last year, the police opened fire on striking miners at the Lonmin mines and killed 34 people. The Marikana Commission of Inquiry was established to determine exactly what triggered the tragic shooting and if the police were justified in using brutal, fatal force on the strikers. The state has since declined to pay the legal fees of the lawyers representing the victims and their families.
Several hundred people gathered outside the Union Buildings to serve the presidency with a memorandum which states: “By conducting this peaceful and lawful demonstration, the victims wish to urge the South African government to reconsider their position and provide the necessary funding. Failure to do so will result in a discredited process in which R 115 million of taxpayers’ money has already been spent.”
Members of the South African Police Services were visible among the crowd while leaders of political organisations took turns on the podium to encourage and support the victims in their plight. COPE’s Mosiuoa Lekota reminded those in attendance of a Nelson Mandela quote: “If the ANC does to you what the Apartheid government did to you, then you must do to the ANC what you did to the Apartheid government.”
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi represented the IFP on the podium. He said: “It is unconscionable that government will not pay the legal fees of those participating in the inquiry. It is unconscionable that the matter had to be taken to the High Court because government stubbornly refused to help these families close such a harrowing chapter.” Prince Buthelezi went on to say that the government “should still do the right thing” despite the legal justification of the High Court.
Mmusi Maimane, the Gauteng premier candidate for the DA, also addressed the crowd. He eloquently spoke of the plight of the victims of the Marikana Massacre. He assured the crowd that the victims have the unwavering support of the Democratic Alliance.
The leader of the UDM, Bantu Holomisa was not optimistic about the success of this march considering that the president had not come out to accept the memorandum himself. The presidency sent representatives to accept the message from the victims of Marikana. Holomisa is not entirely sure if the memorandum will receive the urgent attention it deserves from the presidency. Holomisa would much rather the leaders of church, political and other concerned organisations endeavour to sit down with the president. That way, Holomisa thinks, there can be a speedy resolution to an issue that has already gone on for too long already.
The last speaker on the day was the Commander in Chief of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Julius Malema. His entry onto the podium was greeted with singing and loud cheers. Malema was radical as ever when he explained that the reason that the government was not paying the lawyers is that the government is concerned that the funding will somehow end up in the hands of the EFF. He also said: “We want this machinery to be oiled, comrades. We want these lawyers to be oiled and motivated. They can’t sit with their peers there (at the inquiry); their peers are getting money, they are not getting anything but yet, it’s one government. So, we must understand when we leave here, we were not fighting for money. We were fighting for equality. We were fighting for justice because all of us must be treated equally by a democratic government.”
The crowd dispersed peacefully and without incident as supporters of the various organisations sang slogans and marched out of the Union Buildings. It remains to be seen if the march will bring about the desired outcome for the victims of the Marikana Massacre.