Thursday, 15 August 2013

Remembering Marikana with Prayer, Hope and Action

This statement was issued on 15 August 2013, the eve of the first anniversary of the Marikana shootings.

Twelve months on from the Marikana shootings, we must acknowledge too little has been done in response to the terrible tragedy, both for those concerned, and for the life of the nation and our sense of who we are and who we want to become.

The Anglican Church of Southern Africa, through the South African Council of Churches, and with other partners, has offered assistance, especially spiritually, wherever we can, to the bereaved, injured and traumatised. We’ve distributed food-parcels, clothing and other physical help – some of it donated from beyond the Christian family. We have aimed to walk with all those affected, and to support whatever processes can promote healing and wholeness, further justice, and create new and better realities for going forward.

But, despite the hard work, dedication and perseverance of many, we are a long way short of where we would like to be. We could also have worked harder to promote a national climate in which others too would have been encouraged to do more and act with greater urgency, and not only in Marikana.

Yes, we must await the findings of the Farlam Commission. But this does not mean we do nothing as we wait.

Within the wider mining sector and across other industries there are a range of longstanding, underlying problems which time only exacerbates. There are lessons from Marikana all can learn, and actions to take which would benefit all stakeholders, who must cooperate.

All employers must put their own houses in order, ensuring decent, living wages and working conditions, as a higher priority than social responsibility programmes that tend to address symptoms not causes. Employers and unions should also find common ground in taking steps to uplift workers in other ways. What is being done to educate workers in managing their finances, the dangers of loan sharks, and sensible alternatives? How are we promoting honest, open debate about perhaps outdated employment practices for both migrant and local workers? How are we overcoming the vast skewedness of inequalities in wages?

Yes, there are complexities, yes there are difficult histories – but we cannot let these become excuses for minimal action. If I sound na├»ve, it is because we can no longer play games. People’s lives and their basic needs, must be put first – before profits, before politics, before power, before inter-union rivalries – and I’m not afraid to say so.

Yet I’m not without hope. The shockwaves which ran through the nation arose from our conviction that such things should never happen, and our certainty that the life of our country should be better. 1994’s vision still burns within us – let us keep fanning the flame.

And let us persevere in prayer, for those affected by the tragic events of last year – the bereaved, the injured, all who have been traumatised. I call on all South Africans to pray persistently for the situation in Marikana from Friday until Sunday. Let us seek God’s guidance and strength to do more, to do better, in building a better country for all. And may God bless us in these endeavours.