Tribute delivered by the Premier of Gauteng Ms Nomvula Mokonyane at the memorial service for the Marikana disaster held at the Johannesburg City Hall
23 Aug 2012
The bereaved families
The Chairperson of the ANC, Ms. Baleka Mbete,
Members of the National Executive Committee of the ANC
Honourable Ministers and Deputy-Ministers
The Executive Mayors
Members of Parliament
Members of the Provincial Legislature
The Gauteng Provincial Commissioner of Police, Lt. General Mzwandile Petros
His Execellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Veterans of our struggle for freedom
Leaders of Political Parties
Comrades and Friends
Ladies and Gentlemen
We are all gathered here today with our hearts enveloped by heaviness and sorrow as a result of the events that unfolded before our eyes in Marikana in the past week. This is the day that we reflect and dedicate ourselves to deal with the pain of this magnitude, and to also say, that such incidents should never happen again in our lifetime.
A dark cloud of tension that hovered over the dusty koppie in the tiny mining town of Marikana, in the past week, or so, was a precursor to the violence that would, in the eyes of many, change the history of South Africa.
We all gasped as the events unfold in the public glare of our television stations and newspapers. These events unleashed a plethora of engineered sound-bites and news-pieces.
There is no doubt that even a single death, is a death too much. The Marikana police shootings, where 34 miners died and 78 got injured, happened after a week of violence that led to the killing of 10 people by striking workers – two of which were policemen.
Like vultures hovering over carcasses of the dead animals, individuals and groups converged in Marikana holding multiplicity of briefs, some of which were far-detached from helping the family of the dead in dealing with their moment of grief; but to masquerade as messiahs to the vulnerable miners.
What makes for a good observation is how the disaster has in itself created a host of “experts” overnight, on matters of violence resolution. All have joined the bandwagon in providing a “psycho-analysis” of the events leading to the horrific incident of the 16th August, 2012 in Marikana.
I dare say, many political commentators have attempted to bludgeon and besmirch South Africa as a highly violent country, yet do not in their discourse provide answers to the societal challenges the country is faced with, especially with regards to the violence experienced in protests and demonstrations.
Could this phenomenon of the violence in our protests be attributed to the legacy of apartheid violence? If so, these individuals and groupings that are in possession of the sociological acumen should join civil society and government in attempts at seeking solutions to the challenges, rather than, magnify them.
In fact, they themselves should be encouraging society, in general, to earnestly get involved in the long-impending engagements and discourse about how we should deal with violent forms of protests, and therefore, assert the sanctity of Section 12 of the Constitution of the Republic which guarantees everyone freedom from all forms of violence .
As a result of the tragic events in Marikana, the President officially declared this week a Week of Mourning and that the national flag should fly at half-mast. Importantly, the President reflected on the events and requested all of South Africa to mourn together as a nation and begin to deal with the process of healing.
We need to reiterate that this hour of mourning is not the time for finger-pointing and name-blaming. The time for investigation and findings, as to the sequence of events, as well as, who did what, when and how, will present itself once the details of the commission announced by the President are made known together with their terms of reference.
In the midst of these tragic events, we should find solace in what the President said about turning the corner when he said, “we assure the South African people in particular, that we remain fully committed to ensuring that this country remains a peaceful, stable, productive and thriving nation that is focused on improving the quality of life of all, especially the poor and the working class.”
This is the time for reflection, wherein we make introspection about how society, as a whole, deal with these challenges. We need to begin looking at how as the South African society we deal with the socio-economic matters without resorting to violence as a means of achieving our goals.
Any leader of substance should support government in the appeal for calm during this time of challenges; and eschew from using populist rhetoric. Obviously, those who are committed to thriving on the back of this tragedy will see this as an opportunity to exploit the vulnerable miners for their own selfish agenda and self- aggrandisement. We vehemently and unequivocally deplore such tendencies since they do not build but destroy the moral fabric of our society, and more so, fan the fires of hate and societal dislocation.
We all do not know what would have been, or should have been had the events not turned out the way they did. What we need to do is to take a leaf from the experience of the events to grow and understand the fact that points of disagreement, on any issue, under whatever circumstances, should not be points of conflict and intolerance.
Any society will have its own contradictions. However what we need to guard against is that, those contradictions do not become antagonistic to a point of polarisation, and begin to undermine the very glue that sticks the nation together.
The struggle to dislodge apartheid doctrine in all its ramifications brought about a new South Africa underpinned by a strong constitutional democracy, the South African constitution is regarded highly as one of the best in the world.
However, it is not how progressive our constitution is that determines how deep the process of social cohesion and nation- building can go.
Suffice it to say that, the history of the South African struggle would be incomplete without mentioning the role that the working class played toward the attainment of democracy and freedom. It is a mere eighteen years since we have emerged as a united democratic country. Ours has been celebrated by the nations of the world as the “miracle” political settlement based on true values of reconciliation, peace, justice and freedom.
As government, we have committed ourselves to an agenda of transforming the state to ensure a better life for all. Government can never be an agent of change all by itself in isolation from the rest of civil society. Together, as partners, government and civil society should become agents of change. The discourse on Social Cohesion and Nation-building should become a topical point of discussion throughout society.
Stimela, one of the fore-most musical groups of the 80’s and 90’s in South Africa sang a song whose lyrics go thus:
Trees are falling down
And they scatter the seeds
The caterpillar is dying
And the butterfly is born...
Scatter the ashes and go.
These lyrics inspired one of the fore-most writers in South Africa, Dr. Mongane Wally Serote, in his novel titled Scatter the ashes and go. This is a symbolism for the metamorphic nature of development; that life is forever in a constant state of change.
That to every birth, its pain; to every death it’s pain. And in the same breath, the scripture teaches us in Isaiah 61:3 that God will console those who are in pain, to give them beauty for ashes.
Allow me to quote from a poem in the article written by Nkululo Xhego Njogwe, in the aftermath of the Maseru Massacre in 1982, as a way of showing ubuntu and the respect for the dead on the one hand, and the challenges of our democracy presently, on the other. It goes as follows:
Let us accompany you to the peace valley of the fallen.
Allow us to intrude upon your world of silent summers with
a message from the living.
Take us, for we believe there are messages you left unsaid.
Give us messages to carry to those still making the world
and in turn pass our word to those that went before.
Perhaps there is still something we still do not understand, a piece
of knowledge that could make things all the more easier, a comforting
handshake that shall make less pain of your sudden departure…What become of us without you? Make us believe that even in your absence the journey is still ours.”
As we proceed with the memorial service today, our soul and mental faculty are challenged by the cry of the girl-child who feels vulnerable because in her eyes society does not care enough; also we are equally probed to think about the future of a boy-child whose destiny is enmeshed in criminality and other nefarious activities.
This is the time to stop and say; as mothers, as fathers, as sister, brothers, aunts, and uncles, what type of role-models are we in our society, so that society can find sustenance in us to turn the corner of this moral abyss.
To the families of those who have departed, we can only say that there cannot be enough words to comfort you in this great loss of yours. Your loss is our loss, too. But we can only express our empathy by quoting from the scripture in Psalm 30:5 where it says:
“For His anger is but for a moment,
His favour is for life:
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.”
Kindly allow all those who have departed during the Marikana incidents rest in peace and tranquility.
Issued by: Gauteng Office of the Premier
23 Aug 2012
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