The African National Congress missed a big opportunity at the commemoration events at Marikana. It’s the one year anniversary of the day police shot dead 34 striking miners at the Lonmin platinum mine. Peace was preached at the commemoration, which was open to all political parties and all the unions.
Yet the ANC refused to come and so did the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
In a rather bitter sounding news release on Thursday, the ANC in the North West province said it wouldn’t come because the event was organised by what it called an “illegitimate team called the Marikana Support Group” and that it was “totally unacceptable that such a traumatic incident could be turned into a political playground by some political parties who seeks to enhance their political ambitions and interests.”
The ANC has been battered by how its handled Marikana from the beginning – criticised of failing the poor, not listening to the miners demands and not caring. And so ensued a barrage of criticism from its political opponents who were given five minutes each at the microphone.
Obviously someone at central office was listening (and possibly to media coverage of the no-show) because then the ANC’s national spokesman issued a statement saying the party regretted the “callous remarks” made by the NW Province adding that “no one should ever seek to determine and direct how people must mourn nor contest ownership of the right to mourn. The pain of the people of Marikana must never be turned into a popularity contest with all vying for attention and making a mockery of the real agony suffered by our people.”
The one year anniversary of the killings was a golden opportunity for the ANC to show that it had heard the gunfire, the machetes slash and the voices of thousands of miners rise and fall – desperate for this democracy to be good to them too. But the ANC left a gaping hole on the stage and its opponents lined up to fill it.