By Andries du Toit
A dream died in South Africa on 16 August 2012: the dream of trust between a government and its people.
When we made the transition to democracy in 1994, we knew that a rocky path still lay ahead. What we were celebrating was not the end of struggle, but the hope that the struggle for justice and equality in South Africa could continue in a new way. We were celebrating the promise that when people cry out — in hope or anger — for better conditions of work or life, that cry would be heard, and their right to stand together would be protected and respected.
That promise has been broken. It has been shattered, not only by violence visited upon the maimed and broken bodies of the 34 people who died at Marikana nine years ago; it is broken every year when that tragic day is commemorated by South Africa’s people and not its government. Marikana Day is our bitterest day of remembrance because unlike all the others, it passes formally unrecognised: mourned by South Africa’s people, but not by the State that claims to rule in the people’s name.
Today, the cry for justice and for a better life is more urgent in South Africa than ever. The ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic, government’s high-handed regulatory response, and its economic aftershocks have been felt by the poor most intensely of all. It has been a bitter winter, and South Africa’s poor and landless people have borne the brunt of its hardship.
The constitutional promise on which our society is built demands that we do better. It requires that we enact just policies that restore and respect the lives and dignity of all South Africa’s people. The necessary measures lie within our grasp: making land available for those who need it, where they need it; a universal basic income guarantee; an economy that works for everyone and not just a handful of JSE listed corporations; and capable institutions of government that serve the country’s people instead of stealing their money.
In publicly remembering the dead of Marikana, we hold the government of South Africa to its promise, and we re-dedicate ourselves to the struggle still unrealised – for the day when South Africa truly belongs to all who live in it.