Like so many South Africans, I have been watching with growing alarm the escalating violence at Lonmin’s Marikana Mine over the last week, and am now stunned and appalled by yesterday’s events which left so many more dead or injured. It is a terrible, heart-breaking, tragedy, for the individuals concerned and for our nation. Our fervent prayers are with all the bereaved, and the hurt and wounded.
Whatever the merits of the various disputes — whether between employees and employers, between unions, between workers and union leaders, between miners and police — whatever the legality of the strikes or the responses to them, this death toll is unacceptable. Even one death is one too many, and there must be an end to this senseless loss of life.
There must be strong, but measured and proportionate, interventions to end this warpath and stop the killings. I call on the Ministers of Justice, and of Mining and Mineral Resources, to engage fully. Police and union leaders must also strive to reverse the spirals of mistrust and violence. Further, the whole country must register our utter frustration at the unacceptable handling of the dispute. We must also make resoundingly clear that common sense must prevail, and that sincere, mature, negotiation must always be the route to solving our differences. Violence is never the answer.
Yet we cannot just pray for wounds to be bandaged and pain healed, and demand that conflict ends, without addressing the wider context and the underlying issues on which conflict feeds. In the Bible, the Prophet Isaiah records the promise of God that ‘I will appoint Peace as your overseer, and Righteousness as your taskmaster: violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders …’ (Isaiah 60:17-18). Devastation and destruction end only when there is true peace and righteousness. In other words, our greatest need is to ensure that genuine justice and fairness prevail in all sectors of our country’s life. These are marked by true economic emancipation of all, good governance, honesty and truth, mutual respect regardless of status, flourishing democratic systems, free but constructive speech. We must not lose sight of this vision, encapsulated in 1994 and in our Constitution. Its achievement lies in our hands, if we recommit ourselves positively, and work hard, rejecting complacency and hopelessness in the face of the country’s challenges. God wants what is best for all his children, and will help us, if we strive for all that is good and right.
Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town
Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa
Photo by Diocese of Lichfield/Flickr