Four years after police shot and killed 34 striking mineworkers at a koppie in Nkaneng informal settlement in Wonderkop near Marikana little has changed.
There are still shacks erected on a dry clay soil – a sign of abject poverty.
Nkaneng is one of many informal settlements surrounding platinum mines in Rustenburg in North West.
Impoverished mine workers have to live in these shacks if they are to claim a “living out allowance” to beef up their meagre wages.
Since the tragedy the shacks have been electrified and water tanks have been placed nearby for communal use.
Renting a shack costs about R500 a month.
On 10 August 2012, thousands of Lonmin platinum mineworkers downed tools when employers said they could not afford their demands for a “living wage” of R12 500 per month.
Employers described the strike as illegal but workers were unrelenting and the strike persisted.
During the lead up to the shooting there were reports of intimidation and assault between members of rival unions – the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).
Ten people including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards were killed as violence escalated in the area. On August 16 police shot dead 34 striking mineworkers at a koppie near Nkaneng. More than 70 others were injured.
“There is little going here, we still live in shacks, they are cold in winter and extremely hot in summer,” complained Herald Mpete.
“After the August 16, we expected things to improve … the toilets we use are not good and pose a health risk.”
He added that there are times when they have no electricity and water.
While the living standards of shack dwellers remain appalling, the Marikana centre has enjoyed remarkable improvements. There are now two large supermarkets, a fried chicken outlet, clothing shops and banks. Another shopping complex is about 800m from Marikana CBD. In 2012 there was only one supermarket, a fried chicken outlet and a number of loan shark businesses.
A report by the global human rights group Amnesty International, released on Monday, painted a gloomy picture for mineworkers in Marikana.
“The catastrophic events of August 2012 should have been a decisive wake-up call to Lonmin that it must address these truly appalling living conditions,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s director for Southern Africa.
“The company’s failure to improve employees’ housing is baffling and irresponsible in the extreme. Lonmin is aware that dire housing contributed to the unrest four years ago that ultimately led to the death of dozens of miners.”
Tuesday marks the 4th anniversary of the Marikana tragedy, mineworkers continue to fight for a R12 500 minimum wage and also for August 16 to be declared a public holiday in South Africa.
After the tragedy Marikana became a political hot bed with opposition parties blaming the ruling African National Congress (ANC) for the worst single act of police brutality since SA became a democracy in 1994.
It was not surprising that during the local municipal elections on August 3 the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) won ward 26 of the Madibeng local municipality, which includes Nkaneng. The EFF also unseated the ANC in ward 32 of the Rustenburg.
“The wards here in Marikana and Wonderkop are controlled by the EFF, we just hope thing will change. We have to wait and hope the best is yet to come,” Mpete said.
Marikana a town laid out in 1870 on the farm Rooikoppes, and the settlement later expanded into seven white-owned farms. In 1933, the Buffelspoort Dam was built, allowing the local farmers to irrigate their crops. The farming community grew in the 1960s on the back of lucrative tobacco farming. Other diversified farming practices like cattle rearing, growing maize, chillies, paprika, soya, lusern and sunflower were also main economic drivers in the area.
In the 1970s mining was introduced and grew to become the main industry in the region.