In the aftermath of the Marikana massacre, a number of conspiracy theories came to light.
1. That the SAPS had deliberately arranged matters so that miners would be killed, to punish the miners for killing police officers earlier. This was plausible — after all, the police handled the matter so badly that it was tempting to believe that they were doing so deliberately, and the police do feel vengeful about people who murder cops. To find the truth of this, it would be necessary to closely and clearly question the police commanders involved concerning their plans and the execution of their plans, and of course get a general portrait of what happened from the large number of journalists and observers present, as well as from the miners themselves. In principle, the truth could be found.
2. That the SAPS had killed the miners under orders from Lonmin, in order to crush the strike. This was less plausible. It would also, however, be extremely difficult to test this in court, simply because one could be sure that no such orders would have been committed to paper.
3. That the SAPS had killed the miners under orders from the National Union of Mineworkers via the ANC, in order to crush AMCU. This was exceptionally implausible, and once again, one could be confident that no substantiating evidence would exist in any demonstrable form.
4. That the SAPS had killed the miners under joint orders from Lonmin, the ANC and the NUM in pursuit of neoliberal agendas, whatever those might be. This, which we may call the Gillian Schutte/Peter Alexander arglebargle, is pretty much meaningless, and unless someone came up with some confirming evidence of some kind, it is utterly untestable in any shape or form.
It should be pointed out, however, that any one of the latter conspiracy theories might have been correct, even though they were respectively a bit unlikely, very unlikely and virtually impossible. In South Africa it is often difficult to keep secrets; there is no culture of holding them and an extensive culture of cheque-book journalism and of eagerness to take money in exchange for secrets. Therefore, if there were any secrets to come out which might serve to provide plausibility for theories two to four, they should have come out by now, after a year of Farnham Commission.
What has come out, however, is essentially nothing. This is surprising. Commissions are, of course, likely to be appointed as temporising measures, and the Zuma administration does almost nothing except temporise, so this is temporising doubly damned. However, in order to pretend to be investigating something, most Commissions at least go through the motions of hearing evidence and attempting to process it in some sense. It has been claimed that the Commission is a cover-up. It is nothing of the kind, for it has provided no covering whatsoever — all the horrible, stinking evidence of the crime committed at Wonderkop remains there out in the open for all to see. But it makes no sense, since nobody is trying to make any sense of it.
One would have thought that Zuma would want to do something to create the illusion that he wanted to get to the truth of the matter. He went to the trouble of scampering out of the country on the day of the massacre, thereafter giving a speech about how shocked he was and how he felt the pain of those who had suffered. (If only he had!) And, surely, it would not have been so very difficult to throw a couple of police officers under the proverbial bus and thus show that people had been punished — as happened, for instance, after the great white Gupta-bearing bird flopped down at Waterkloof Air Force Base. But nothing like that has happened. It’s almost as if Zuma is too beholden to the cops, or as if there is just too much being covered up, for any investigation to take place.
Certainly it would have been possible for Judge Farnham to have asked coherent questions of the police and the other witnesses to discover if there was any pattern amidst the general incompetence, bungling and worthless leadership which they displayed. If necessary, journalists could have been subpoenaed (journalists have been extremely unforthcoming with information, considering the way in which they have fabricated and consolidated conspiracy theories, as if they are preserving all their material for their handlers in the various spy services in the imperialist countries). One expects trade unionists to tell lies, and certainly Joseph Mathunjwa is a past master of generating obvious bullshit, but even so, some of the unionists who survived the killings might not have been so completely coached that they could not have told a story which (analysed together with other stories) might have made some kind of sense. In which case, a real, meaningful narrative about what happened during the hour or so of the run-up to and the aftermath of the massacre might have come together, and that would have justified setting up the Farnham Commission, up to a point at least (and assuming that nobody in the Commission had been paid and that it had sat for only a week or so).
But none of this has happened. Well, perhaps Farnham has been bought off, or is as much of a corrupt dunderhead as most South African judges. But then, why could the celebrity lawyers for the miners or the purported civil society organisations not have managed this? It was obvious that the police were not giving away anything and that when police officers appeared before the Commission they were either telling obvious lies or were delivering an implausible narrative. It is not conceivable that the police had no proper plan, that they kept no proper record, that they had no clear agenda for their actions, that they had nobody in charge at crucial moments, that the leadership of the police cannot say why they deployed a kill squad rather than a riot squad — or rather, it is just conceivable that all this might be the case, but then it is inconceivable that no heads have rolled in response to this unbelievable ineptitude. The officer in charge of the Pistorius case was shunted aside for displaying incompetence, yet the Marikana case makes him look like Sherlock Holmes mingled with the Archangel Gabriel. The media has not picked up on this. Are they looking the other way?
Perhaps what concerns the media, as it concerns the so-called Marikana Support Committee and all the other “civil society” nincompoops — including the lawyers — surrounding the massacre victims like leeches, is the other possibilities. What is the point of finding out what the police did wrong in a massacre in order to prevent future massacres? It is not the business of a modern political leader in South Africa to make life better for humanity. It is the business of a modern political leader to serve the interests of the global ruling class by undermining the African National Congress, and that’s all she wrote.
They have not, of course, managed to find any evidence substantiating their claims. The ignorant and prejudiced writings of Greg Marinovich in the right-wing Maverick webmag might have pointed to something, although all it really meant, had it meant anything (and we don’t know, of course) was that the police seemed to have deliberately killed people who were wounded. (But since R-5 bullets have unstable flight paths and move at more than a kilometre a second, it was perfectly possible that some of the people were dropped in unexpected places, far beyond where the police were aiming, assuming that they aimed at all which is a large assumption.) Anyway, nobody attempted to investigate this or look into it in any meaningful way, and certainly nobody brought the matter before the Commission or any of the legal teams for further study.
As for the claims about Cyril Ramaphosa, the less said about the claptrap spouted by Dali Mpofu the better. Not a word of the e-mails waved about by Mpofu (no doubt supplied to him by Lonmin) had anything to do with the Marikana massacre. Nothing, indeed, which has been presented by anybody has provided any substantiating evidence for any of the conspiracy theories which have been floating around. It’s almost as if these forces do not want to discuss the need for substantiating evidence — that what they want is what the media has provided, the automatic assumption that any mad fantasy which incriminates the ANC must be presented as if it were gospel truth on tablets of stone, and that the only voices which need to be listened to are the voices of the propagandists, repeating the same gibberish over and over, and their hirelings echoing it. It’s nice work if you can get it, telling unsubstantiated lies for cash, but it can’t be good for the spirit or the mind in the longer run — assuming that people like Peter Alexander possess such things.
The only thing which really needs to be said about the conspiracy theories is that if anyone had actually wanted to undermine AMCU, or privilege the NUM, or further the interests of the ANC, then they would certainly not have sat around for a month while AMCU slaughtered NUM and ANC members, then blazed away for two minutes, then run away and hid for a year. We have seen how the police have acted against trade unions when they wanted to act against trade unions. They systematically disperse their meetings, arrest their leaders, harass their membership, and this is invariably supported by the owners of the companies who provide information and, where appropriate, bribe people to turn their backs on the unions or denounce them, while the press bursts its banks with anti-union propaganda and the government tells soft lies. This is how it was handled in the 1970s and the early 1980s. This is what would have been going on if the conspiracy theories had embodied any sense, and if it had been, AMCU would have been a dead duck eleven months ago.
So it is obvious that the conspiracy theories, in their present form, make no sense. Indeed, in order to sustain themselves, the supporters of the conspiracy theories have to tell ridiculous lies (like Frankel’s claim that the media has been nasty to AMCU — in reality, the media has acted as AMCU’s PR agents while smearing the NUM, which was always an early indication that whatever the NUM were up to, AMCU were obviously the sweethearts of management). Of course, even these sleazeballs are less sleazy than the lawyers, who have talked their useless cronies in AMCU (and the pitiful miners who trail along behind, knowing that they have no real hope of benefit yet also knowing they have no altenative any longer) into pulling out of the Commission unless and until someone pays the lawyers more than the thirty million they have received already. (Imagine if someone had given R900 000 to each family of each victim, and the worthless lawyers, none of whom have performed tasks which a form III class project could not have handled without any teacher’s supervision, had been left to rot!)
We are wasting our time, of course. Nothing further of value will come out of this. And certainly nobody will look into the actual crimes of Lonmin. Those crimes were fomenting the crisis in the first place — so in a sense, if anyone were blaming Lonmin, they would be justified, even though for all the wrong reasons. However, nobody is blaming Lonmin when there is a convenient smokescreen called the ANC. Indeed, the ANC are in the pockets of the mining industry. But blaming the ANC and paying no attention to Lonmin is exactly like the feeble-minded children who believe that the puppets at a puppet-show are alive. So long as everybody agrees to cover up for the source of the problem — the capitalist system and its mineral-energy complex — or mention that source only to forget it the moment it raises its head, so long will we fail to address the issue.
And it seems that most of us are quite happy to see that failure continue.