By Uyanda Mabece
“We were not fighting anyone, we were sitting there to demand our right to earn a decent living wage. The police were wrong.”
That is the assessment of a former rock drill operator at Lonmin mine. Justin Kolobe, who did not want to use his real name, was present on August 16 2012 when members of the South African Police Service opened fire on striking mineworkers in Marikana, killing 34 of them.
He was on the frontline of the labour dispute. He wanted to earn a minimum wage of R12 500 a month.
After the shooting he was left permanently paralysed and without a job. Like the families of the mineworkers who were shot dead by police, and 70 others who suffered injuries, five years later Kolobe is still waiting for justice and reparations. He lays the blame for the lack of progress squarely on the government.
He believes that if the authorities were serious about ensuring accountability for the killings, senior officials and police officers suspected of criminal responsibility would have been tried by now in a competent court of law.