Dear families, comrades and loved ones,

Today is the fifth commemoration of the Lily Mine Disaster.  Today, five years ago three of our comrades were trapped underground after a shaft collapsed.  The inquiry after the incident determined that this happened due to the negligence of the mine.  However, to date nobody has been prosecuted for this horrendous crime.

This shows how cheap the life of a black worker is – just as cheap as our lives were in Marikana on 16 August 2012 when 34 mineworkers were killed in cold blood by the state to protect the interests of White Monopoly Capital.

These three breadwinners, Comrade Pretty Nkambule, Comrade Yvonne Mnisi and Comrade Solomon Nyerende are still trapped in the belly of the earth, where they were toiling for the super profits of White Monopoly Capital.

To this day, no-one has been convicted, and the reason is simple:  From the 1800s, during the age of British colonialism, our country has been controlled by the mining magnates.  They controlled the government, regardless of which political party was in power.  This continued throughout the apartheid years until this very day in the democratic South Africa we live in.

The NPA has not prosecuted anybody for what happened at Lily Mine, but let me guarantee you today that surely if the owners of the mine were blacks, they would be languishing in jail…

The minerals in Africa have become a curse for its people.  It has led to mass exploitation and suffering, which undermine the dignity and the future of Africans for the sake of the big mining companies.

This exploitation established a culture of self-hate amongst black people.  It displaced them and created a false culture and also a misplaced class consciousness.  As black people, we were made to feel inferior because we are black, and that we are not capable of determining our own destiny.

This self-hate creates the impression that our lives don’t matter, just like our lives don’t matter to the capitalists and the mining bosses.

Hence, we still have these three breadwinners languishing in the belly of the earth after five years.

The fact is that capitalism knows no boundaries.  Nothing will stand in the way of their profits.  The lives of black people have never mattered when it comes to money.  It is profit before people – all the way.

We have seen politicians using the plight of these families and loved ones for their narrow political sustenance and to become relevant.  They are opportunistic!  This disaster happened when all these people were still in positions of power, from which they could influence the outcome.  But they never uttered a single word at that time.

The failure of the government to take full responsibility actually exposes these families to various kinds of posturing by different formations.  If it was truly the government of the people, having received all our letters to address this issue, it could have addressed this matter immediately.

The open neglect by the State of its social compact is clear now, and slogans such as caring and moving forward together and “batho pele” are just a façade.  It makes us blacks the laughing stock of other nations and other governments.

We want to remind our government that charity begins at home!  How can our government assist a mine in Chile, South America thousands of kilometers away, but they cannot do the same here on their doorstep?  No words can explain…

If our government were able to give Guptas the money to buy Optimum through the rehabilitation fund from the DMRE, why can they not use this same fund for an honorable cause like restoring the dignity of our comrades by retrieving the container and giving closure to their families and loved ones?

We again call on the DMRE to regain its conscience and responsibility as a regulator, and bring closure to this disaster.

Lily Mine was the source of livelihood for a number of communities and households.  Restarting these operations will greatly address the mass unemployment in this valley.  If government is really serious about the NDP and addressing unemployment and inequality, it should focus here.  Restarting Lily Mine will address many socioeconomic challenges like poverty, crime and other irresponsible activities.

There were many disasters in our country.  This Lily Mine Disaster adds to the Coalbrook Disaster, Hlobani Disaster, Kinross Disaster, Vaal Reefs Disaster, Gloria Mine Disaster and many others.

In actual fact, we should have commemorations every year as these mines are killing more than 20 breadwinners per year.  Even single mineworker who dies at work, is a disaster on its own for his family and his loved ones.  Lily Mine has just become a statistic, hence they have no remorse as they are used to it and it has become their culture.

As AMCU, we reiterate our call for the amendment of the Mine Health and Safety Act, so that these unscrupulous and heartless mine bosses can be held liable for killing breadwinners.

We want to remind you, family members, friends, comrades, community members, that you are not alone.  You will never walk alone.  Remember that it always gets darkest in the moments before the sun rises, but remember that you are not alone.  We shall overcome!

Yours in Social Justice

Joseph Mathunjwa