Marikana Miners: We Still Want The R12,500 Our Brothers Died For 5 Years Ago

On Wednesday, members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and mineworkers gathered at the Marikana Koppie to commemorate the 34 miners who were killed by police during a wage strike on 16 August 2012. Thousands of mineworkers came out to pay tribute to those who were once friends and colleagues. The Daily Vox team spoke to mineworkers to find out if their living and working conditions have changed since 2012.

Gwebethule Dikani, 59, miner, Ntabankulu
I’ve been working in the mines since 1992. Our living and working conditions here in Marikana haven’t really changed. Most of us here live with our families in small rooms and that is not nice. We have been asking Lonmin when we will get proper places to stay but some of us don’t know what’s happening. We are still demanding an increase in wages but that has not been addressed either. We have also tried to ask for employment for our children to help us make ends meet with the little salaries that we receive, but this has been ignored. I’m getting old, I should be retiring but I can’t, because if I do, who is going to feed my family and my unemployed children?

In 2012, Amcu, which represents about 70% of Marikana’s miners, demanded a R12 500 basic salary for all general mineworkers in the platinum industry. The union also called for other benefits such as a R100 daily meal allowance and R2 000 transport allowance. However, these demands were not met. Despite this, some mineworkers were pleased with the work the union has done for them so far.

Qondani Bobbejan, 39, miner, Welkom
We started demanding for a wage increase since 2012, and despite us losing our brothers and friends, we are still demanding for the same wage increase. So nothing has changed. But, as much as we still have a long way to go in terms of fighting for mining companies to treat us the way we deserved to be treated, I am grateful for Amcu, because there has been some change. Some of our cries about our working conditions have been heard by employers because of Amcu. For example, slowly but surely, our input in these mines is being taken seriously by mining companies. We still have a long way to go, but Amcu is helping us.

In 2013 Amcu and mining company Lonmin signed a three-year wage agreement to increase basic salaries by R1 000. But miners still say this is not enough.

Mayedwa Gwebityala, 40, miner, Marikana
The deaths of our brothers on that Koppie mountain have not brought any major change. Yes, there is little change, in terms of our receiving the R1 000 that Amcu agreed on with Lonmin, but we haven’t received the R12 500 we demanded. Our salaries are not enough to feed us and our families. These people forget that we have big families but they pay us so little. We still want the R12 500 we demanded, that is the change we want.

After the Marikana Commission of Inquiry found the living conditions of Lonmin mine workers to be appalling, the mining company was expected to build accommodation for 11 500 mineworkers. So far, Lonmin has converted single-sex hostels into family units and has called for government assistance to help with building more accommodation.

Myekwa Mpendulo, 40, Amcu member, Marikana
Lonmin made promises to the mineworkers after what happened five years ago, but they have still not delivered on their promises. They promised to build the miners houses but where are the houses? People here are still suffering. The miners are living in appalling conditions in these hostels. Some of the houses have electric wires hanging everywhere and some have water leaks as well. This is not safe for miners and those who live with their families. The government needs to do something too. We can’t let this go on forever, these are also humans. We are pleading with the government to start using the country’s money for a good cause that will benefit us the citizens and not just them.

At Wednesday’s commemoration, Amcu chairperson Joseph Mathunjwa promised mineworkers that they will still continue fighting and negotiating until their demands have been met. EFF commander-in-chief Julius Malema urged the country and miners to never forget what happened in Marikana five years ago and promised to help Amcu build houses for miners.

Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity