By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG (AA) - South Africans on Friday commemorated the seventh anniversary of the Marikana massacre, which saw 34 mineworkers brutally gunned down by police during a strike at the Lonmin platinum mine in North West province.
"The Marikana tragedy stands out as the darkest moment in the life of our young democracy,'' President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is currently on an official visit to Tanzania, wrote on his Twitter account.
On Aug. 16, 2012, police opened fire on hundreds of mineworkers in the small mining town of Marikana while they were striking to demand a monthly minimum wage of 12,500 rand ($860) from their employer, British mining giant Lonmin. They also wanted better living conditions.
Ten people were also killed a week prior to the strike, bringing the total number of those who lost their lives in Marikana to 44. More than seventy others were injured during the incident, which sparked national outrage since it was broadcast live on television.
"Never again can we allow such a tragedy to befall our nation," Ramaphosa tweeted.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) said workers’ living conditions have not changed since the tragic incident.
The AMCU said most of the mineworkers still live in shacks, while those accused of shooting the miners are still scott free, despite recommendations passed by a commission of inquiry that probed the matter.
''We commit ourselves to full implementation of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry findings and recommendations. Never again must such a painful tragedy befall our nation,'' Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu wrote on Twitter.
Mthembu said the government’s prayers were with the families and communities that lost their loved ones.
Each of the families of those who lost their relatives are demanding 2 million rand ($130,679) in compensation, but the government wants to pay them only 500,000 rand ($32,669). Lawyers for the families say the amount is too low.
Julius Malema, the leader of South Africa's third largest political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), blamed the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party for the tragedy, which the party denies.
''We must never forget about the violent massacre of 34 black mineworkers by the government of the ANC which took place on 16 August 2012. Ours is to remember against forgetting,” Malema said on Twitter.
The ANC said it wants the government to speed up the implementation of programs that seek to alleviate the plight of those affected by the tragedy.