Marikana miners and family reflect on commission experiences

As the public awaits President Jacob Zuma’s release of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry report, miners and family members affected by the events of Marikana get a chance to share their experiences of the Commission.

LEGACY: Advocate George Bizos, attended the Wits SRC's One Million, One Month launch at the Wits Great Hall. The Human Rights Lawyer is best known for representing Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela in the Rivonia Trial. Photo: Tendai Dube

MARIKANA ADVOCATE Advocate George Bizos, was among the attendees at the ‘Commissioning the present’ conference this passed weekend. Photo: Tendai Dube

Veteran lawyer and anti-apartheid activist, George Bizos, implored lawyers and organisations to pressure government to accept civil liability for the women and children of the victims of Marikana.

Bizos was speaking at the closure of the Commissioning the Present conference at Wits University on Saturday. The three day conference was organised by Social Economic Rights Institute (SERI) and the Wits History Workshop and took place from May 7-9.

“It gives voice to the victims of the massacre and their families – a group of people who were almost completely left out of the Commission’s work and narrative.”

Dr Julian Brown, a politics lecturer at Wits, and one of the organisers of the event, said the conference had hoped to “bring the voices of academics, lawyers, the families of the deceased, and the miners themselves into conversation with each other, so that we can learn from our different insights”.

Brown added that the conference would “interrogate the ways in which stories about the Marikana massacre have been constructed by the state and other public players – in particular, by the Commission of Inquiry”.

The Marikana Commission of Inquiry, headed by Judge Ian Farlam, was set up to investigate the events of Marikana (which led to the deaths of 44 people, 70 injuries and 250 arrests).

Stuart Wilson, executive director at SERI said the conference was important because, “It gives voice to the victims of the massacre and their families – a group of people who were almost completely left out of the Commission’s work and narrative.”

Unsatisfactory treatment during the Marikana commission of inquiry

A panel of miners and family members of deceased miners were given a platform to share their first hand experiences.

“I know that wasn’t done in order to find out the truth, it was done in order to persecute us.”

From their accounts, it was clear that there is a general belief that police were treated with greater dignity and respect during the Marikana Commission.

“I know that wasn’t done in order to find out the truth, it was done in order to persecute us,” said one of the panellists.

Nathabang Ntsenyeno broke down in tears as she spoke about how she watched her husband being killed in a video that was shown at the Commission. She added that the Commission was unsympathetic towards her, specifically pointed to the use of the term “uneducated” in reference to her and others at the Commission.

Nomasonto Gadlela explained how miners were repeatedly asked the same questions to the point where they felt intimidated.

Bringing together academia and lived experiences 

The conference also hosted academics who presented their work on Marikana.

The scholarly works dealt with topics such as – the lived experiences of men and women in Marikana; the social conditions in which the strike, and then the massacre took place; the role of Lonmin and mining capital, and the role of the police, to name a few.

Something that resonated from the scholarly works to the lived experiences of those affected was the reality of the lives of women in Marikana. Many women in the community have been forced to work in the Lonmin mines after losing their husbands because they have no other form of income or ways of supporting their families.

This has left many of these women feeling as if they are “a laughing stock” but they do it out of desperation, explained Nomfanelo Jali.

President Jacob Zuma has received Judge Farlam’s report and released a statement on May 10 indicating that he would release it publicly “in due course”.

UPDATED WITH VIDEO: Nearly R2-million raised in 1Million1Month campaign

The Wits SRC have raised R1, 7 million after Wits chancellor Dikgang Moseneke and ten of his friends donated R50 000 each at the “One million, One month” launch earlier today.

The “One million, One month” campaign was officially launched by the Wits Student Representatives Council (SRC) at the Great Hall today even though the campaign reached its initial target of R1-million last Friday. The SRC was joined by the campaign’s ambassadors whose contributions today saw the total amount rise to R1,7 million.

Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, one of the ambassadors, donated R50 000 and arranged for ten of his friends to match his contribution.

“I have phoned a number of my friends and I said to them I will make a commitment on my feet today … and at least 10 of them said they will match me”, Moseneke said.

“One of my friends was moved by young comrades thinking in a very revolutionary way. They have a deep grievance but they find a positive way to address it”, Moseneke added.

Wits vice-chancellor, Professor Adam Habib, said he hopes that the campaign raises one or two million more.

“I will not lie to you. We are hoping to make R2 or 3 million … I will not have enough money to fund all students,” Habib said.

Wits SRC president Mcebo Dlamini pointed out that he was no longer talking to the Department of Higher Education (DHE), about the problem but he refuses to see 2788 students go back home.

“One of my friends was moved by young comrades thinking in a very revolutionary way. They have a deep grievance but they find a positive way to address it”

“Our wish is to take all 2788 students to class because that is the future of the nation. I can’t lose 2788 students, I cannot,” Dlamini said.

LEGACY: Advocate George Bizos, attended the Wits SRC's One Million, One Month launch at the Wits Great Hall. The Human Rights Lawyer is best known for representing Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela in the Rivonia Trial. Photo: Tendai Dube

LEGACY: Advocate George Bizos, attended the Wits SRC’s One Million, One Month launch at the Wits Great Hall. Photo: Tendai Dube

Advocate George Bizos, who was the first official ambassador of the campaign, shared a moving story of a young woman he knew who struggled financially and recalled his promise to “never let anyone in [his] generation go through the same thing”.

Mpendulo Nkosi, a first year civil engineering student from rural KZN spoke of his difficulties in securing accommodation and funding for his studies at Wits. He was later surprised by the announcement that he was to be fully funded by a donor, the Thusanani Foundation, a youth-led non- profit organisation.

Nkosi said, “I am really thankful, they have done great for me and my family.”

“I am really thankful, they have done great for me and my family”. 

Another significant donation was that of R100 000 from the South African National Zakah Fund (SANZAF).

Amongst the ambassadors who joined Bizos and Moseneke on stage was poet Lebo Mashile, and singer, Thandiswa Mazwai, both of whom congratulated Wits and the student leadership for their positive reaction to the funding crisis.


Wits University remembers Mandela at fireside chat


A picture of Nelson Mandela greeted guests to the Wits University memorial in honour of the late statesman on Thursday night. Photo: Mfuneko Toyana.

Wits University’s memorial service in honour of late former president Nelson Mandela was not a somber affair.

Nor was it bogged down by strict decorum. Instead, the vast and iconic Wits Great Hall auditorium was transformed into an intimate scene where a few of Madiba’s closest comrades sat together and shared fond memories of the great statesman.

Constitutional Court deputy chief justice and Wits chancellor Dikgang Moseneke facilitated what he termed a “fire-side conversation” with Advocate George Bizos, who defended Mandela at the 1959 Rivonia Trial, and liberation stalwart Ahmed Kathadra, a close confidant of Mandela on Robben Island.

Together, they took the 1000-strong audience, gathered inside and outside the Great Hall, on a leisurely stroll down memory lane, effortlessly evoking the mercurial spirit and humour of their former comrade and the nation’s father.

[pullquote align=”right”]”We have failed to live up to Mandela’s egalitarian vision”[/pullquote]

Moseneke, the younger of the three on the stage, told the audience his first encounter with Mandela was under less “illustrious” circumstances than those of Bizos and Kathadra.


Ahmad Kathrada, a contemporary and confidant of Nelson Mandela who spent many years imprisoned on Robben Island with Mandela. Photo: Wits Communications.

“It was on Robben Island … I used to be a runner for them, delivering newspapers to Mandela and other comrades … I used to cut out all the rubbish like advertisements and then smuggle them in.”

The smile, a somewhat despairing one, in Moseneke’s voice as he conducted proceedings radiated from his words and into the audience, as if the larger than life portrait of a half-smiling Mandela at the entrance of the hall had silently  lifted darkness of loss from the hearts of all of those present.


Advocate George Bizos who defended Nelson Mandela at the Rivonia Treason Trials. Photo: Wits Communications.

Bizos and Kathrada took the turns to join in the mock irreverence.

“I met him in 1948 right here,” Bizos chuckled.  “He was always [dressed] in a suit and shiny shoes,” said Bizos, wondering out loud where Mandela could have possibly found the money to look so dapper.

Kathrada, in a low voice, told the audience he had met Mandela two years earlier, in 1946, before eventually being imprisoned on Robben Island with him.

The panel, however, did not shy from using Mandela’s passing to assess how far the country had come in its liberation.

“I get upset when people say nothing has changed,” Bizos chided. “Look at the panel here. Look at the student body.” Bizos said that you would not have kind of diversity during apartheid.

Commenting on the current leadership of the country, he lamented: “We have failed to live up to Mandela’s egalitarian vision… We have failed materially in many respects.”

Bringing an end to proceedings, Moseneke echoed Bizos’ disappointment saying the country had a long way to go. The optimistic tone, however, returned.

“There will be many good men to us through these tempestuous times … We are a nation of good people,” Moseneke said.


Watch a video of the memorial provided by Wits Communications:



GALLERY: Wits welcomes Habib


By Nokuthula Manyathi, Emelia Motsai and Shandukani Mulaudzi

Professor Adam Habib was officially installed as Wits vice chancellor and principal on Saturday. Habib took over the position from Prof Loyiso Nongxa at the beginning of June. Before moving to Wits Habib was  deputy vice-chancellor for research,innovation, library and faculty Coordination at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).

Guests at the event included Moeletsi Mbeki, George Bizos, Mamphela Ramphele, Given Mkhari and Ahmad Kathrada. Habib’s wife Fatima and their two sons were also present.

Guests were treated to a cocktail party on the library lawns after the installation.

Read the full story here.

WITH VIDEO: SRC and Habib share Wits vision

Wits’ new vice chancellor and its SRC president have similar visions for the future of the university in the next ten years which they expressed in different ways yesterday at Professor Adam Habib’s installation ceremony.

Habib was officially appointed as Wits’ vice chancellor and principal in a ceremony presided over by Wits chancellor Justice Dikgang Moseneke. SRC president Sibulele Mgudlwa stole the show with his light-hearted speech that struck the right chords.

SRC President 2023 writes a letter

Mgudlwa, said his speech from the perspective of a letter written to him by an SRC president leading in the year 2023.

Mgudlwa’s fictional 2023 SRC president wrote the letter from her flat in Soweto off her iPad that she received for free at registration. She told “dear Sibu” that the university’s WiFi had a reach across the city of Johannesburg.

In 2023 there was no such thing as discrimination based on race and poor students were taken care of to the extent that no students were sleeping in libraries, or sleeping with empty stomachs. Mgudlwa said in 2023 sexual harassment was a myth. He had the audience laughing loudly when he said that the Wits University of 2023 did not charge students for protesting, alluding to the charges against 11 Witsies for their involvement in a protest.

Habib’s equality vision

In Habib’s speech, he referred to inequality as South Africa’s Achilles’ heel. Habib said his vision was for an “Afropolitan dream” to drive South Africans and all at Wits University.

Habib said the essence of this dream as defined by Wits Humanities scholar, Achille Mbembe, is: “A commitment to the country, continent and globe; where we are at one with being African and human”. Habib said Wits was committed to addressing issues of transformation and diversity and apologised to those who had faced discrimination of any kind in the past.

Wits “World class university”

Habib also spoke about what it means for Wits to be a world class university. He said it was important for Wits to compete in its own right without imitating the foreign. “It is the responsiveness to one’s contextual specificities that enhances a university’s ability to make unique contributions to the global corpus of knowledge.”

Mgudlwa said in 2023 Wits would sit firmly in the top 100 universities of the world.[pullquote align=”right”]“We trust that you will lead this university to greater heights and if you do not, we have you on Twitter.” [/pullquote]

Hope for student-focused Wits

Mgudlwa said he hoped that Habib would focus on students and listen to students on university issues. He said if Habib was not accountable to students, they would express themselves one way or the other.

“We trust that you will lead this university to greater heights and if you do not, we have you on twitter.” The ceremony was attended by a number of local and international dignitaries including Ahmad Kathrada, vice-chancellors of a number of South African and African universities, Advocate George Bizos, Dr Mamphela Ramphele, Moeletsi Mbeki, and the Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom who delievered a speech as well.



Standing in protest against violence in society

By Jay Caboz

Around 150 Wits staff, some  in academic gowns, and students gathered outside the Bertha Road pedestrian entrance to observe South Africa’s national day of mourning on Thursday 23 August.

George Bizos, left, joins Wits registrar Kirti Menon, centre, and Asawu President, David Dickinson, in a march against violence. Pic: Jay Caboz

George Bizos, one of South Africa’s most distinguished human rights advocates joined  the gathering together with Wits Registrar Kirti Menon, Prof Tawana Kupe, Dean of Humanities, and Prof David Dickinson, President of the Academic and Support Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU).

In a statement released by Prof Yunus Ballim, acting Vice-Chancellor and vice-Principal, the gathering was called as a public display from the University “against the ongoing violence gripping society” and to “encourage the public to stand up for social justice.”

The national day of mourning was declared by the South African government in memorial of the lives lost in the violence at Marikana and Pomeroy these past few weeks.

In commemoration of the lives of the 44 miners killed, students and academics stood on the pavement holding placards one of which said: “mourning all the victims of violence” as well as declaring the event as “our collective shame”.

A National Day of Mourning was declared by President Jacob Zuma. Memorials were held across the province and several streets in Johannesburg Central Business District were closed.

From Monday, the University has been flying its flag at half-mast also in remembrance of the lives lost.


Marchers line up along Jan Smuts Avenue in Braamfontein. Pic: Jay Caboz

Wits staff and students took to the pavements to protest violence in society. Pic: Jay Caboz