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IV. Statement on the Marikana-Lonmin Massacre in South Africa

Statement on the Marikana-Lonmin Massacre in South Africa, adopted as part of the Report of the Public Issues Committee by the World Council of Churches Central Committee.

04 September 2012

WCC Central Committee meeting, 28 August - 5 September 2012

1.      It is with great dismay that the World Council of Churches received the news about the Marikana-Lonmin Massacre in South Africa on 16th August. The clash between the protesting mine workers, mine managers and police resulted in the deaths of 34 protesting mine workers on 16 August at the Marikana-Lonmin, which is one of the worst death tolls in violent protests since 1994. A total of 44 people have lost their lives, including 10 others (eight mine workers and two police officers) who were killed in conflicts in the weeks leading up to the incident on 16 August. In addition to the deaths, 78 people were injured. At the present time, communities, the families of the victims, police officers and the workers have all been traumatized by the violence and shootings at Marikana.

2.      In many ways, the member churches of the WCC, in many parts of the world, have found great inspiration and hope in the peaceful transition from apartheid in South Africa. We believe that the people of South Africa have set an incredible example for the rest of the world in their work to undo the devastating history of apartheid in ways that are rooted in truth, reconciliation, forgiveness and non-violence. The WCC continues to believe that ongoing situations of conflict and challenge can – and must – be addressed in ways that do not resort to the use and/or threat of such destructive violence as occurred in the Marikana situation.

3.      For a long period of time, the plight of mine workers in South Africa has been characterized by low wages, exploitative working conditions and poor housing and is therefore a matter of serious concern that needs to be addressed urgently. While the mine workers continue to live in inhumane conditions and in abject poverty, those who are managing the mine fields amass enormous wealth. In the 18 years of democracy the South African government has failed in its policies to effectively redistribute the wealth and natural resources of the country in its transition from an era of apartheid to democracy. This has led to increasing trends of deep social and racial divisions leading to mistrust, crime and violence in society. The consequences of this are frustration and alienation which contribute to situations such as the unrest in Marikana-Lonmin. It is also a matter of serious concern that violence continues to be a matter of daily experience for many South Africans.

4.      As the South African Council of Churches (SACC) observes in a recent statement, issued in August 2012, that the inhabitants of the earth have an inherent right to participate and share in the wealth of their nations. The World Council of Churches joins and affirms this position by calling for a more concerted effort at addressing the issue of the gap between the rich and the poor. According to a number of important economic and social indicators, South Africa is currently one of the most unequal societies in the world and unless this disparity between the rich and the poor is addressed then social dissension is likely to continue. In particular the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches joins the SACC and the churches of Southern Africa in their call for examining the living conditions and the wages of workers vis a vis the profits of mining companies in the country.

5.      The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches is shocked at the blanket charge of murder at all the workers who were protesting against their poor wages. While we decry the violence that some of the workers committed in this situation, the Central Committee is shocked at the use of an apartheid law on a case such as this. This law which criminalizes everyone who was part of the protest action, irrespective of what they did, is unjust and not good for democracy.

6.      The WCC stands in solidarity with the churches of South Africa as they seek to minister and bring healing to the families that lost their loved ones in the massacre, and to all who have been affected by this terrible situation. We pray with the churches and the people of the Region – “God of life; lead us to justice and peace”.

The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Kolympari, Crete, Greece, from 28 August to 5 September 2012, therefore:

A.     Laments the tragic events that occurred at Marikana and prays for comfort, healing and peace in the lives of all those affected;

B.     Encourages all the concerned parties to return to the negotiating table with the view to ending the impasse and enabling the protesters to return to work;

C.     Supports the establishment of commission of enquiry in response to this tragic situation and hopes that it will identify the root causes of this conflict, bring to justice those who are responsible, and establish fair, just and non-violent methods of conflict resolution in potentially volatile situations;

D.    Calls on the South African government to address the historical economic and social injustices that continue to affect mining communities and mine workers in South Africa and the region;

E.     Expresses concern about the use of the “Common Purpose” law in relation to this situation and urges the civil authorities to prosecute those individuals who are directly responsible for the deaths that occurred; and

F.     Stands in solidarity with the churches in Southern Africa which are seeking to bring healing by accompanying the community of Marikana and all those that have been affected by the recent events.