Op-Ed: The heritage tourism potential of Marikana

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The crisis in mining is pregnant with opportunities, such as using the site at Marikana for heritage purposes. The tragedy can be used as a means to create a new reality for Marikana, by immortalising the tragedy in a museum and interpretation centre that will act as a new growth path for the area.

By Unathi Sonwabile Henama 

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The tragic events of the 16 August 2012 led to the loss of life in Marikana outside of Rustenburg. South Africa witnessed one of the most tragic post-apartheid events when the South African Police Service (SAPS) shot at armed striking miners, killing 34, and wounding 78. An additional 270 striking miners were arrested at the site of the tragedy. The Marikana Commission of Inquiry was set up to investigate the tragic events and submitted its report.

The South African economy has strong linkages to mining, and the truth is that when mining sneezes, the economy catches a cold. The mining sector has been a perennial jobs shedder in South Africa, destroying the economies of many single-industry rural towns, leading to the emergence of zama-zama’s that have participated in the illegal trade in mining, creating a shadow mining industry, linked to the underworld. Mining disinvestment, jobs shedding and restructuring are the staple news from mining companies in South Africa. Along with policy uncertainty, this has negatively impacted investment on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Mining disinvestment, jobs shedding and restructuring are the staple news from mining companies in South Africa. Along with policy uncertainty, this has negatively impacted investment on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Poverty, unemployment & inequality

The decrease in commodity prices has ravaged the finances of mining companies, further compounding the challenges faced by the industry. The biggest challenge facing South Africa is the growth trap, which has meant that poverty, unemployment, and inequality have remained stubborn. The loss of jobs has been the dominant dividend of democracy, and this must be reversed, to ensure that our economy creates sustainable jobs that will restore dignity to millions of South Africans.

The loss of jobs has been the dominant dividend of democracy, and this must be reversed, to ensure that our economy creates sustainable jobs that will restore dignity to millions of South Africans.

South Africa is a mineral rich country and probably a leading mining country in the world as far as the variety and quantity of minerals produced are concerned. The country is known to be the largest producer of platinum, estimated to hold 87% of the world’s reserves of Platinum Group Metals. In 2009 it accounted for 76% of the world platinum.

Marikana is part of the Bushveld Igneous Complex, found in the northern part of South Africa, which is the world’s largest layered intrusion. The complex plays host to over half of the world’s platinum, chromium, vanadium and refractory minerals. South Africa has been associated with the resource curse, as the rich mineral deposits have not translated into prosperity for the majority of South Africans.

Crisis in mining is pregnant with opportunities for tourism

The anniversary of Marikana always captures national attention and usually dominates national discourse. The paucity of government involvement in Marikana anniversary commemorations has been one of the state’s own goals. The reality is that what happened at Marikana was tragic, but the time for moving on has long passed, there is no time to waste time. The crisis in mining is pregnant with opportunities, for using the site at Marikana for heritage purposes. The tragedy can be used as a means to create a new reality for Marikana, by

The crisis in mining is pregnant with opportunities, such as using the site at Marikana for heritage purposes. The tragedy can be used as a means to create a new reality for Marikana, by immortalising the tragedy in a museum and interpretation centre that will act as a new growth path for the area.

The major tourism nodes around the Marikana area include the tourism enclave which is Sun City, which provides employment for thousands of residents around the greater Rustenburg area. In as much as mining remains an ailing industry, it remains important, it must be supported. Tourism growth in South Africa has been robust, achieving a 13% year on year growth in 2016.

Tourism can alleviate some of the Marikana’s challenges

Tourism can be a solution for creating a new economic sector that will alleviate some of the challenges faced by the Marikana area. The heritage of Marikana must be properly packaged to be balanced so that it does not lead to polarisation like the Sharpeville massacre. The yearly commemoration of Sharpeville Massacre, instead of being a major event that attracts tourists from near and far, remains a yearly embarrassment for the government, as the Pan African Congress would conduct its own march in competition to the government programme.

The Pan African Congress feels marginalised by the presentation of the story and heritage of the Sharpeville Massacre. This mistake must not be repeated when the Marikana heritage site finally gets erected.

The Marikana heritage site must be developed for multiple uses, and integrate technology in packaging the museum experience so that the museum experience is digital. The construction of the heritage site is not an end in itself, the site must be developed with the input of the travel intermediaries such as tour operators, to ensure that the planning phase will appeal to the needs of the tour operator clients.

The majority of heritage sites remain white elephants because they are not consumed by locals and international tourists. South Africa with its tragic history, must develop its heritage sites as a way of making money out of heritage, to create labour intensive jobs that will decrease poverty and unemployment.

 

Unathi Sonwabile Henama is a lecturer in the Department of Tourism Management at the Tshwane University of Technology and writes in his personal capacity.

 

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