Eight years on, still no justice

Deadly exchange of weapons and platinum profits continues between London and Marikana

By Daniel Selwyn, Marikana Solidarity Collective (London)

On Sunday, August 16th 2020, the eighth anniversary of the Marikana Massacre, a collective of organisations and individuals will gather outside the South African High Commission in London’s Trafalgar Square for a socially distanced vigil. We will remember the names and lives of the 34 platinum miners murdered by the South African police at the behest of London mining company Lonmin, a corporate descendant of Cecil Rhodes’ colonial occupation of southern Africa. We will hold space in one of the busiest parts of London, the belly of the British empire, to show our solidarity with the struggle for reparations and justice in Marikana.

Eight years on, it is clear that the structural issues that led to the strike and Massacre have still not been addressed or, in some cases, have even worsened. Popular movements against ecological devastation, land dispossession, and the super-exploitation of African labour and nature by multinational corporations continue to rise across the country and continent. But they are frequently met with unyielding repression. From the Amadiba Crisis Committee in Xolobeni, whose leader Sikhosiphi ‘Bazooka’ Rhadebe was assassinated before the community won the ‘Right to Say No’ to mining,[1] to the state’s brutal evictions of Abahlali baseMjondolo, struggling for housing and dignity,[2] Rhodes’ colonial legacy haunts the mines and shacks of South Africa.

It has been noted recently that the South African police responsible for the Massacre in Marikana murder people at a per capita rate three times higher than their American counterparts,[3] where widespread Black-led uprisings against state violence have forced the world’s attention towards the structural endurance of racism and white supremacy. With hundreds of thousands of arrests and at least a dozen killings while enforcing the coronavirus lockdown in South Africa,[4] calls to invest in communities, care and life rather than warfare and death resonate beyond borders. Here, the plunder of natural resources by London mining companies cannot be seen in isolation from the £1 billion in military exports licensed by the UK government to the South African state over the previous decade, including £369 million in the year of the massacre.[5]

At Lonmin’s final general meeting in 2019, a People’s Tribunal found the company guilty not only of exploiting and murdering its workers and their families, but also polluting the community’s land, water and air over decades of colonial occupation, apartheid and industrial extraction. It sold its operations to Sibanye-Stillwater for $226 million to avoid accountability for these crimes. However, profits and platinum from Marikana continue to flow to the City of London. The buyout leaves former Lonmin investors—including London-listed Investec, Majedie and Ninety One—holding 9% of Sibanye-Stillwater’s shares.

Meanwhile, the largest consumer of Marikana’s resources, the giant industrial chemical company BASF, has dozens of subsidiaries in the UK, as well as 9% of its shares controlled by British and Irish investors.[6] While boasting €9.4 billion in revenues from its platinum catalyst sales, in a barely legible footnote in its annual report BASF refers to the Massacre as the ‘Marikana incident.’[7] Evidently, the dehumanising logics cultivated over centuries of ongoing massacres for profit and property have not been—and cannot be—unlearned by their practitioners and beneficiaries.

We stand in solidarity with the workers and community in Marikana and all social movements in South Africa resisting neo-colonial resource extraction and state violence, and fighting for a just and sustainable future for all. Amandla!

Join us in London at 16.00 on 16th August: https://www.facebook.com/events/286509032569297/


[1] Hal Rhoades, ‘Mining, money and murder: the deadly struggle to protect South Africa’s Wild Coast,’ The Ecologist, 12 May 2016 https://theecologist.org/2016/may/12/mining-money-and-murder-deadly-struggle-protect-south-africas-wild-coast

[2] see Abahlali baseMjondolo http://abahlali.org/

[3] Tricontinental, ‘The Politic of Blood: Political Repression in South Africa,’ August 2020, p.38

[4] Tricontinental, ‘The Politic of Blood: Political Repression in South Africa,’ August 2020, p.39

[5] Campaign Against Arms Trade, ‘UK Arms Export Licenses: South Africa since 2010.’

[6] BASF. ‘Annual Report 2019,’ p.13

[7] BASF. ‘Annual Report 2019,’ p.80