‘New government must make Marikana koppie a museum’
Two colleagues of the deceased also say the day of their deaths should be turned into a public holiday
Two murder-accused Marikana leaders say they voted for their dead colleagues in last week’s elections, and want the koppie where they perished to become a museum.
Sithembele Sohadi and Xolani Nzuzu are among 20 workers facing murder charges after 10 people were killed in the week preceding August 16 2012, the day known as the Marikana massacre, when police shot dead 34 striking miners.
Last week was the second national election since the 2012 massacre, and Times Select travelled with Sohadi and Nzuzu to their voting stations in Marikana West and Karee, both Lonmin mineworkers’ compounds.
“It’s been seven years now after we were charged with murder … As if it’s not painful enough to lose them, today we are kept reminded of that day by the South African justice department. We are still attending courts,” said Sohadi, whose case has been dragging on for eight years.
Nzuzu said he wanted the dead to be remembered, and the day of their deaths to be turned into a public holiday.
“The only government who will do that is this government of ours. We are voting for things to happen, and this vote I am casting today is for the dead workers. We need justice, not for us but for them. We are facing serious criminal charges today for leading what was right for thousands of mineworkers, who are underpaid,” said Nzuzu.
“We need this government not to forget that tragedy. If those killed were from other races, every year there could be commemorations and recognition.”
Two days before the national general election, Sohadi and Nzuzu appeared in the North West High Court, alongside 15 other accused. Their criminal case was postponed to October 18. They are facing counts including murder, attempted murder, malicious damage to property, robbery, unlawful possession of firearms as well as unlawful possession of ammunition.
Three of those initially charged with them have since died – two were shot dead, and another died of natural causes.
“The koppie where the miners died should be fenced, and there should be a museum there to commemorate them. Those were human beings and, most of all, breadwinners of their families. They died for a national cause that needs to be respected. The political parties’ manifestos should have mentioned them. We need to remember them,” said Sohadi.
This week, while South Africans were busy casting their votes, Sohadi and Zunzu took time to drive to the koppie to remember their fellow workers.
“We are constantly remembering this each time we drive past. It should be fenced off or be painted with the South African flag or something. We need this place to be a tourist attraction centre,” he said.
Nandipha Gunuza, who lost her husband Bonginkosi Yona when their son was only nine days old, said she hoped her vote would make a difference.
“That’s what we are calling for. My vote this week should bring back sanity to the leaders to know and remember the dead miners. My son is six years old, and I am worried he will one day ask about his father. What would I say? It would be nice to show them the site where they were killed with their names and other commemorations there,” said Gunuza.
Nomkhitha Sompeta’s father died after he saw on television how his son, Mzukisi Sompeta, was shot dead.
Sompeta decided not to vote last week.
“Despite all this, where is the justice for the dead mineworkers? My father died calling for justice after his only son was killed on that day. He would not have voted today because the government has forgotten about something that happened a few years ago while they are commemorating their birthday every year,” said Sompeta.