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Marikana, 12-16 August 2012

Violence triggered by escalating labour unrest at Lonmin’s Marikana mine resulted in the death of 44 people between 12 and 16 August 2012 in what has come to be known as the Marikana tragedy. Of the 44 people who died, 34 were shot by police on 16 August while 10 people, including security guards, mineworkers and police officers, were killed between 12 and 14 August.

The Marikana event shocked people and focused much negative attention on the South African government and the mining sector. Shortly after the tragedy, President Jacob Zuma appointed the Farlam Commission of Inquiry to investigate events at Marikana. The Commission’s findings were released to the public in June 2015.

The events at Marikana had a significant impact on the labour relations landscape, bringing to the fore underlying problems such as union rivalry, the effect of employee indebtedness on the value of wages, housing conditions, limited capacity in local municipalities, high youth unemployment and some of the consequences of the legacy of the migrant labour system.

Today, eight years later, we reflect on this terrible tragedy and how it changed people’s lives forever.

One of the key developments that have been put in place since 2012  relate to employee indebtedness, which remains a concern in all spheres of South African society. Ironically, mining employees were particularly  vulnerable to formal and informal lenders as they have a stable, good income as well as access to banking systems and other documentation. The Framework Agreement for a Sustainable Mining Industry concluded in July 2013 under the chairmanship of the then Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe, provided that employers had to inform their employees of emolument attachment orders presented by creditors to companies for deduction from employees’ salaries. It was envisaged that this would enable employees to determine the legitimacy of these orders.

Dealing with indebtedness was a feature of the gold wage settlements in 2013 and the platinum agreements in 2014. In this area, unions and management have worked together constructively. An industry-level indebtedness task team, under the Minerals Council, was established in 2012. Financial literacy training is widely available across the industry and is aimed at changing behaviour, supporting employees by providing effective debt relief solutions, dealing with unscrupulous lenders, reviewing the legality of judgments against employees and the legitimacy of emolument attachment orders, better managing the administration of garnishee orders against employees’ salaries, and working with peers, organised labour and government to create an environment in which consumer protection and credit laws are enforced. Furthermore, the Minerals Council also represents its members on various National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) task teams working on proposals to further assist indebted employees to reduce their debt.

As we commemorate the anniversary of the tragic events at Marikana in 2012, we invite our colleagues and stakeholders in mining to be mindful of the lives lost and, in support of the families and friends of those affected by this tragedy, join us in moving forward as an industry and a country as a whole.

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