SAHRC condemns the violence in Marikana, calls for an investigation.
ATTENTION: Editors and Reporters
The South African Human Rights Commission condemns the violence that erupted in Marikana Lonmin Mine in Rustenburg, that led to the tragic deaths of mine workers on Thursday. Reports say as many as 30 miners were killed, while many others were injured. The SAHRC calls for an urgent Commission of enquiry to be formed to investigate this matter and the responsibilities of all those involved. The enquiry will also need to address the underlying factors that contributed to this tragedy, such as the living conditions of mine-workers and their families outlined in the report by Bench Marks that was recently released at the SAHRC office.
While it’s still not clear what happened prior to the police opening fire and fatally wounding several miners, we believe there were no grounds for excessive force to be used. We are of the view that the police should have used other means at their disposal to disperse the crowd and to arrest the situation. Ironically, this sad and shocking incident happened on the day when the National Council of Provinces unanimously passed the Criminal Procedures Act Amendment Bill, curtailing the use of force by the police in situations like the one in Marikana. The Bill, which intends to bring section 49 of the Act in line with the Constitution, provides guidelines on why and how force, and deadly force, may be used to carry out an arrest or deal with a violent crowd. The Commission has called an urgent meeting with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate to find out more details of what really happened and to ensure that those responsible are dealt with in terms of the law.
This bloodbath follows another unfortunate incident at the same mine a few days ago, in which ten people, including two policemen, were killed, allegedly by the mine workers. We believe two wrongs don’t make a right, and both incidents should be condemned.
There has been an increase in the number of incidents recently, where police used brutal force to quell protests in this country. We have seen this kind of a behavior during service delivery protests, including the one in Ficksburg, Free State in April 2011, where an unarmed activist Andries Tatane was shot dead.
This recurrence is of grave concern to the Commission, and it is indicative of the police’s failure in the area of crowd control.
South Africa is no stranger to matters of police torture. Our country’s Apartheid past bears memories of widespread and an institutionalized system of torture which we do not wish to return to.
This year marks ten years since the adoption of the Robben Island Guidelines for the prohibition and prevention of torture in Africa. The Guidelines were adopted by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights in Robben Island in 2002. It aims to provide African States with specific guidelines on how to fulfill their national, regional and international obligations. It also seeks to arm civil society with a tool to enable them to challenge States to take action to eradicate torture and ill-treatment. The South African Human Rights Commission, along with the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, will be hosting a dialogue next week in Johannesburg. It will be attended by representatives from across the continent who will reflect on solutions to overcome common challenges such as the tragedy at Marikana .
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South African Human Rights Commission
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