The ANC of South Africa attained the age of 100 years on 8 January 2012. That makes the organisation one of the oldest political movements in Africa.And yet, in recent days, the ANC has been putting on such a fumbling performance politically that many people would be surprised to learn that it is in fact such a very mature organisation — in years. Not an ‘adolescent’amateur.The ANC “amateurish”? It beggars belief, doesn’t it? After the many years it was forced to spend in exile, studying post-independence politics at first hand in many African capitals?
And yet let’s look at the facts: *On 3 September 2012, it was reported that four more miners had been shot and injured, apparently by security guards, at a goldmine owned by the nephew of the current South African President, Jacob Zuma of the ANC, and a grandson of the country’s first black President, Nelson Mandela of the ANC. News agencies were quick to recall that “Two weeks ago, police killed 34 striking miners at a platinum mine [at Marikana].”
*On the same day, the African National Congress issued a statement welcoming “the decision of the National Prosecution Authority to provisionally withdraw the murder charges against the charged [Marikana] miners and [their] conditional release. “This decision will allow the Commission of Enquiry established by the President to do its work, and for police to continue with their investigations,” the ANC statement said.But then the statement added provocatively: “We want to reconfirm our confidence in the law enforcement agencies and our judicial system about their capacity to do their work.” What? This was like slapping the surviving miners in the face!
But that’s not the only evidence of insensitivity on the part of the “people’s government” of South Africa.
*On 30 May 2012 , the Sowetan
newspaper reported this:
“Pupils and teachers of Selowe Primary School at Silvermine village in Senwabarwana, under Blouberg municipality in Limpopo, attend classes under marula trees because they only have one classroom.“Residents of Silvermine village and the Limpopo Department of Education are at loggerheads over the running of a school in the village. The Department is now threatening legal action against the community, arguing that the school is illegal. Department spokesman Pat Kgomo said it was illegal for the community to run a school without permission. It is illegal to operate a school without approval by the Department”, he emphasised.The two statements quoted above are important because they illustrate the attitude
of the ANC Government, in its 18th year of taking power from the apartheid regime, to the police and other public services it inherited from the regime.
The worst, of course, is the attitude of the ANC towards the police and the National Prosecution Authority, which seems to be one of unthinking support. Of course, the Government must back its public services. But not when they commit murder. [SEE UPDATE BELOW] Or make disastrous policy mistakes.
And it has been established, by photographic and eyewitness accounts offered by journalists, that the police shot and killed some of the Marikana miners when the miners were not actually attacking the police, though some of them did carry machetes and other traditional weapons. Now, the full facts will only become known when the Presidential commission has finished its investigations – which will include autopsy reports that will reveal where the police bullets entered the victims’ bodies and most probably indicate that some of the miners were shot in the back. Therefore to show even tacit approval of the police action now, when so much controversy surrounds it, is politically unwise in the extreme..Especially since the police and prosecution authorities have shown no remorse at all whatsoever over the Marikana shootings. Indeed, left to themselves, they would in fact insist on punishing the surviving miners by retaining the provisional charges of murder they had filed against THE Miners!
The saddest part of the story is that the action by the police and the National Prosecution Authority was based on an old law passed by the apartheid regime under which if a person was part of a crowd that engaged in violence, that person could be charged with any offence arising out of the violence, including murder. It is known as the “Common Cause”
law.Some famous ANC martyrs, including the poet, Benjamin Moloise, were hanged in Pretoria prison under this vile law, which refused to recognise an individual’s personal responsibility for crimes he had committed or not committed. So, for the prosecuting authorities of modern-day South Africa to go back to that law to charge the Marikana miners, some of whose comrades had died in front of their eyes, exhibited two aspects of extreme cruelty.One: cruelty in callously reminding the ANC of the hanging by the apartheid regime of the ANC’s martyrs under the Common Cause law; and TWO : cruelty in demonstrating to the populace that the police and prosecuting authorities do not care to inflict psychological torture on the miners of Marikana; psychological torture in the form of being charged with the murder of comrades who died at their side and who, but for the grace of God, might have included themselves. Hasn’t the ANC learnt any sympathy for workers all the time it has been associated with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) which the ANC is proud to call an integral organisation of the ANC?
Of course, the South African constitution enjoins the executive to desist from interfering in the work of the police and the National Prosecuting Authority. But both bodies authorities are subject to government POLICY. If it is government policy not to use totalitarian apartheid laws to prosecute current offenders, that policy should be respected by those bodies.
Even if the Government has no policy on the issue, maybe because it never anticipated that issues would arise under the Common Cause law, then as soon as an issue reared its head, it should have been alert enough, even shocked enough,to realise this was a crisis in policy and taken emergency measures to ensure that its staff were educated on the implications of going back into the apartheid statute book to bring out the stinking skeleton of a nauseous law with which to threaten the citizens of a democratic South Africa.
Better still, the ANC Government ought to bring in new legislation repealing the old laws on the statute book that could make the National Prosecution Authority think of mounting such a callous prosecution. If the law exists, then lazy prosecutors will use them to save themselves the task of finding an appropriate law to use, if the case in question was difficult or complex.
In fact, even though the National Prosecution Authority can exert itself as an independent body, it cannot totally escape from what is called ‘Ministerial responsibility’ for its departmental actions. Someone has to pilot its estimates through Parliament; someone also has to answer questions asked about it in Parliament.
Besides, the Government, as an elected body subject to public approval through elections, must develop a policy on human rights which will guide the National Prosecution Authority on such issues as how to react to public protests. If action by one of the arms of a Ministry or Department can be demonstrated to constitute a public menace — and the anger aroused in the country by the murder charges against the miners was a clear public menace which could have erupted in further violence — then the executive should be responsible for giving directives that would calm the situation. Politically, it should condemn the action, giving cogent reasons why the action would be harmful to the public interest and making it clear that the action was against “public policy”. Such an antagonistic stance by the executive would cause heads to roll in the department and would also teach the police and the National Prosecution Authority a painful lesson in not distancing or even isolating themselves so far from what might be termed the ‘national ethos’ of the democratic South African state whose interests they are supposed to serve.
Law and order must be preserved in the country at all costs. But it is fair to say that if the miners had been, say, the executive members of a political party who had been threatened with one of the many laws suppressing political activity inconvenient to the government that the apartheid regime used to apply against its opponents, the police and prosecution authorities would never have dared to apply that law.That would have been because the executive members of the political parties are in the same social class as the rulers, and rub shoulders with them constantly. They are in daily communication with each other in Parliament and diplomatic receptions; they also meet socially elsewhere, and can freely give one another a piece of their mind. But when is a miner going to be able to bend the ear of a Cabinet Minister?
The ANC must analyse the socio-political situation with the political expertise it once used to be able to deploy, and refrain from adhering to meaningless
legalisms to frustrate members of the populace who seek action to redress injustices they see in their lives. Such silly legalism was exemplified by the reaction of a departmental spokesman to the decision of the villagers mentioned at the beginning of this article, to set up a school under the trees, for their children. The best that the spokesman for the department of education in the province could say was that it was “illegal” to set up such a school.
The ANC of 100 years ago would have laughed at that and demanded that the spokesman be removed from his job immediately. For instead of feeling embarrassed — if not disgraced — that the Government had been so insensitive that it had reduced members of the public it was elected to serve to setting up a school themselves for their children under the trees, he rather threatened them with the law. Of course, he didn’t know – or didn’t want to accept – that the laws were made by men for the good of men, and not men for the laws, or laws for laws’ sake.What it all boils down to is this: in the process of replacing the white minority regime, the ANC has either been so busy learning how to govern formally, or exerting authority and enjoying the fruits of office, that it has forgotten to transform the arms of the state that were once used to oppress it – especially, the police and the prosecution authorities, and to some extent, the civil service and the armed forces. After all, who implemented “Bantu Education”
by teachers employed by the Ministry of Education or local authorities?Certainly, it’s time the ANC started organising seminars across the country, to inform the government’s employees of the changes to be made in administrative practices, and to learn from the people at interactive sessions, what needs to be done URGENTLY to turn the past into a dead history. Otherwise the past will become the means of undermining the present, by turning up unexpectedly in the form of statutes and practices that stand against everything ANC martyrs fought and died for. No ANC casdre would allow such a relic of the past to psss his desk, yes. But a lot of things can happen when ANC cadres are not looking — as the National Prosecution Authority has proved, too vividly, in the case of the Marikana miners and their [now ‘provisionally withdrawn’] provisional murder charges.
Lonmin strikers ‘shot for fun’: miner
Sapa | 05 September, 2012 08:21
Police call for a ceasefire after killing 34 miners at Lonmin’s Marikana mine on August 16, 2012 in this file photo.
Image by: AFP PHOTO
Striking Lonmin workers were “shot for fun while down on their knees with hand up in the air and begging for their lives”, according to a newly released miner.
Mineworker Lungisile Lutshetu reportedly told The Star that he had seen at least 15 people being shot dead or left injured, “only for some of the injured to be shot again in the head later and finished”.
“When everyone left the mountain towards the shacks where they live, I also join those who went down the mountain at the back towards Marikana West, where we live,” he was quoted saying.
“We did not walk far and saw people running back towards us because police had blocked their way, and suddenly shooting started on the other side of the koppie.
“We ran back to the koppie and there I found a hiding place between two large rocks, but then police were already all over the place. Those in front of me were shot at close range and fell over me, and that’s how my life was spared,” said Lutshetu.
He said he saw a Sotho man kneeling next to a big stone with his hands up.
“He begged for his life and apologised profusely for something he didn’t know about, but heartless officers riddled him with automatic rifles, which pierced through his body.
“I remained still, with the dead and injured piling over and against me. Later they realised I was still alive and they pulled me out, ordered me to the ground and with others, we were asked to slither on our stomach towards a police Nyala,” he said.
“They screamed to a man who has been shot in the leg…to keep limping even after a bone fragment protruded through his leg. We spend three hours lying on our stomachs. The unlucky ones who dared raise their heads were killed.”
Lutshetu said the police “boasted about how many people they have shot and how they still wanted to kill more”.
“They were proud of what they were doing… My clothes were soaked in blood and they asked why I wasn’t dead, and all I could say was sorry and I think my life was spared after paramedics arrived and asked them not to shoot the injured,” he said.
Workers at Lonmin’s Marikana mine have been on strike for the last three weeks, demanding a salary of R12,500 a month.
On August 16, police fired on a group of protesting workers at Lonmin’s Marikana mine, killing 34 and wounding 78. Another 10 people had died earlier in the week, including two policemen and two security guards.
President Jacob Zuma has appointed a judicial commission of inquiry to probe the mine violence in which 44 people died in Marikana.