Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

I AM having trouble processing this fact: Tuesday is four years since the Marikana massacre and yet not one person has been prosecuted or even fired for it.

When it happened, the nation was stunned: 34 people shot by the police force of a democratic SA, simply for wanting a living wage. Ten more killed in the days leading up to the massacre. Yet more deaths in its aftermath. And as the details emerged, we were even more horrified — people shot at point-blank range, people found dead with their hands tied behind their backs. Evidence that political, rather than policing, interests played a role in the decision-making.

It was a seismic event. It was, or should have been, a watershed moment in our history. A time for reckoning, for introspection, for accountability. And yet nothing to speak of has happened. The special task team — a recommendation of the Marikana commission of inquiry — to undertake further investigations for the purposes of prosecutions is "still investigating", says the National Prosecuting Authority. The team has been working very hard and is being meticulous, says spokesman Luvuyo Mfaku. Investigations are at an advanced stage, but he cannot give me a timeline about when a decision will be made on prosecution.

We are also still waiting for the report of the Claassen board of inquiry set up to look into whether Riah Phiyega is fit to be national police commissioner. It is expected in August. Negotiations for the settlement of civil claims are ongoing; but the families are yet to see a cent.

There were two days at the Marikana commission in which the families of those who died told their stories. I was there for one of the days and it is hard to capture how painful those stories were to witness. Families whose lives had been ripped apart by death. Families who had so many questions and no answers. One after another, after another. And perhaps the hardest part: how, for most of them, they could not even begin properly to grieve for their loved ones because they were so distracted by the immediate, pressing need to put food on the table for their children.

I have been told (by people who know) that inside the relevant state institutions, there are people who are committed to ensuring accountability and redress for Marikana. But why is it all taking so long? The worst part: Marikana has simply fallen off our agenda. Looking around at the coalition demands made by the smaller political parties, I find it hard to accept that not one has publicly demanded anything in relation to Marikana.

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The statement from the UDM, EFF, Cope and the United Front setting out issues they said would guide their negotiations does not even mention it. And the EFF was the party that was launched in Marikana.

What kind of people are we that we seem to be more outraged by the Nkandla scandal than by Marikana? Do we really care more about e-tolls than 44 people’s lives? I have wondered whether it is because we cannot, as a society, face the trauma. My friend said the answer is simpler than that: it is because it was poor, black, rural people who died.

Yet it is so strange that public sentiment can be captured by the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag when people are gunned down in the US. We can name Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin. But how many of us can name any of those who died in Marikana?

Let us not forget them: Tembelakhe Mati, Hendrick Tsietsi Monene, Sello Lepaaku, Hassan Fundi, Frans Mabelane, Thapelo Eric Mabebe, Semi Jokanisi, Phumzile Sokanyile, Isaiah Twala, Julius Langa, Molefi Ntsoele, Modisaotsile van Wyk Sagalala, Nkosiyabo Xalabile, Babalo Mtshazi, John Kutlwano Ledingoane, Bongani Cebisile, Yawa Mongezeleli Ntenetya, Henry Mvuyisi Pato, Ntandazo Nokamba, Bongani Mdze, Bonginkosi Yona, Makhosandile Mkhonjwa, Stelega Gadlela, Telang Mohai, Janeveke Raphael Liau, Fezile Saphendu, Anele Mdizeni, Mzukisi Sompeta, Thabiso Johannes Thelejane, Mphangeli Thukuza, Thobile Mpumza, Mgcineni Noki, Thobisile Zimbambele, Thabiso Mosebetsane, Andries Motlapula Ntsenyeho, Patrick Akhona Jijase, Michael Ngweyi, Julius Tokoti Mancotywa, Jackson Lehupa, Khanare Monesa, Mpumzeni Ngxande, Thembinkosi Gwelani, Dumisani Mthinti and Mafolisi Mabiya. Rest in peace.

• Rabkin is law and constitution writer