Marikana inaction a ‘pathetic failure’ - new Amnesty chief
Durban-born Kumi Naidoo says state delayed too long in prosecuting those who gave the firing order
The lack of prosecutions and decent reparations for the Marikana massacre was a “pathetic failure” on the part of the SA government, Amnesty International’s new secretary-general, Kumi Naidoo, said on Thursday.
The fact that there was as yet no accountability for the killings of striking Lonmin mineworkers in 2012 was entrenching a culture of impunity, and those who gave the orders for police to shoot workers should have faced prosecution, he said.
“I think it is a terrible statement that after six years there is also no meaningful compensation offered to the families affected. They have dragged their feet for far too long already.”
Speaking at the announcement of his appointment as the head of the largest human rights movement globally, Durban-born Naidoo said that on the day of the massacre he was taking part in a protest against climate change in the Russian Arctic.
When he saw the footage of the shooting of the mineworkers in his own country, he could not believe it and thought it was a “bad joke”.
Naidoo said he was taking on the role as head of the international human rights body “at a pretty challenging time for humanity”.Mentioning the US immigration policies that led to families being separated at ports of entry, the Rohingya refugee crisis, and the Middle East crisis, Naidoo said that before now there has not been such a need for humanity to show “maximum moral courage”.
His priorities would include violence against women, climate change and levels of inequality.
The 53-year-old former anti- apartheid activist will be based at Amnesty International’s London headquarters and will oversee the organisation’s operations in more than 70 countries, with over seven million members, volunteers and supporters.
Naidoo had previously served as executive director of Greenpeace International and secretary-general of Civicus, an international civic organisation.
His first duty as Amnesty International secretary-general this week was to write a letter to the government of Zimbabwe calling for an investigation into the disappearance of activist Itai Dzamara in 2015.
“Whoever leads the new government must move to undo the injustices of the past,” Naidoo wrote.
He said it was significant that Amnesty International chose to announce his appointment at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory because it was a letter from Madiba to the organisation that inspired him to apply for the position. Mandela wrote to Amnesty in 1962 to thank the body for sending a representative to observe his trial.
Naidoo’s appointment this week coincided with the release from detention of Amnesty’s chairman in Turkey, Taner Kilic. Kilic was arrested and held without trial in June 2017 in connection with the failed coup in that country in 2016. Naidoo will meet Kilic in Turkey next week.