week 10 post

Week 10
Yazan Al-Thibeh
Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre
Week ten examines Peter Alexader’s and his co-writers book “Marikana: Voices from South Africas Mining Massacre”, where it talks about the Marikana Massacre of August 16, 2012. The Massacre was the single most deadly use of force by South Africa forces against civilians. Those who were killed were mineworkers who demanded better working conditions and support of pay. The book interviews and documents those who survived the attack, where the book meticulously mentions the massacre in great detail. The book did a great job in documenting the events leading up to the massacre of the mineworkers and speaking to family members and who were harassed by the South African police. This book reminded me of the 1990 Oka crisis in Canada, on how there was a land despite with the Mohawk people and Canadian authorities. In the Oka crisis a Canadian officer shot and killed a protester.

Chapter 1: Encounters in Marikana
The first chapter gives the reader a background understanding of the events that unraveled in Marikana. Where a couple of weeks before the August 16 2012 massacre, many of the workers decided to strike due to horrible working condions and bad pay. They were receiving $400 (USD) and they were asking for $1000 (USD) (Pg 22). About 3000 workers stopped working to strike having to fail on setting a meeting with Lonmin. The workers were protesting peacefully for unfair working conditions and pay. Some of the workers were carrying knobkerries, sticks and whips to protect themselves from authorities. Within days of the protest 9 people were killed and many more were injured, the tension between both sides escalated. On August 16th 2012, the South African authorities were responsible for injuring 78 people and killing 34. That day was really significant in post-apartheid Africa since it was the day the police used force against civilians.

Chapter 2: A Narrative Account Based on Workers’ Testimonies
The second chapter talks about the struggles that the worker were dealing with and the lack of human rights. The works were threatened by authorities if they did not go back to work when they were protesting. The officers would scare the workers by physically harming them and by touching their homes. On the day of the massacre news stations gathered to take note what happened. The news crated a narrative on how bad and ruthless the workers were, in reality they were the ones that were being oppressed. The workers were trying to build a better future for themselves and family and yet they were seen as the villains. The workers just demanded their employer, Lonmin, to listen to their case for a decent wage. This part of the book reminded me of the article “India in Africa: changing geographies of power”, on how some of the African workers were treated when they were working on the oil-rig, and how some were treated like animals.

Chapter 5: Interviews with Mineworkers
The fifth chapter, looks at the issues and events before and after the massacre. I liked this chapter the most because it entailed unedited literature and interviews from the works and their families. The chapter gives descriptive notes on the emotions towards the massacre and the mine. This chapter allowed the reader to understand the actors involved, (mine company, African National Congress, religious leaders, mine workers, and the National Union of Mineworkers), and come up with a conclusion and opinion on who is to blame.

Discussion
What other cases, in Canada or around the world, were similar to this one?
Were you surprised that South African authorities were threatening and harassing the works?
Why the interviews from the mine works are was crucial in writing this book?
How much of an impact did the media have in influencing this issue, and how might social media today change the way we view events like these?
Why is it really important to study the agents in this case?

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Week 10 – Workers’ Protest and New (?) forms of State Violence

This week’s readings focused on Peter Alexander, Botsang Mmope and Luke Sinwell’s book ‘Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre’. Chapter 1 discussed the difficulties the researchers faced in getting interviews, as well as provided background information on the issues surrounding the strike and massacre. The second chapter went into more depth in explaining and exposing the terrible working conditions in which workers not only risked their lives every day but often had to work double the amount of hours that their contract states. The miners are also subject to unfair wages, which are significantly lower compared to other countries such as Australia. The 5th chapter went even further in depth by sharing personal accounts and stories of the miners. This is something that is different than most of the readings we have done this semester. This angle taken towards the issue, sharing personal stories, has provided the reader with emotional connections to the miners and offers us a different perspective that is not strictly academic.

This reading gave a greater insight to police brutality and the power of the media, which is a very relevant topic in our world today. In this case specifically, miners were framed as the ‘bad guys’ and thought to be a large angry mob in which the police heroically gained control over. This was not the case however and it exposes how difficult it is to challenge government authority and uncover their wrongdoings to the world.

How are we supposed to achieve civil justice and peace when authority figures exempt themselves from punishable offences? How are workers supposed to fight for their rights and have their voices heard when they are responded to with brutality and violence? What can be done to protect workers from these actions in the future?

Emily McManus

Week 9 – Changing Landscapes: Dams, Degradation and Displacement

This week’s readings were on Allen F. and Barbara S. Isaacman’s book ‘Dams, Displacement and the Delusion of Development: Cahora Bassa and Its Legacies in Mozambique, 1965-2007’. The assigned chapters discussed the construction of the Cohora Bassa dam project and how it was a Portuguese colonial power concept, which aimed to generate cheap power for the country in order for Mozambique to stay competitive in the new age of development. According to Gilberto Freye’s theory of ‘lusotropicalism’, there was a greater purpose for the dam. He suggests that the dam was a strategic move by the Portuguese to show that Mozambique was not a colony, rather a “foreign province”, which is developing infrastructure and gaining investment. This was a tactic for the government to leave the country and grant independence to the people of Mozambique.

Although the dam was highly publicized in a positive manner and as a great development for Mozambique, which was supposed to “bring the people out of poverty and close the wage gap”, in reality displaced thousands of farmers and put many workers in dangerous conditions. This was attempted to be covered up by the government as they enforced strict media restrictions at the construction site with the exception of journalists loyal to the government. This left many of the stories of workers deaths and injuries unreported and brings to question what countries and governments are willing to do to become ‘developed’ and the motives behind their actions.

‘Development’ is meant to help local populations by lift them from poverty and improving economic conditions, however as seen by this example, it often involves greater negative costs throughout the process to locals and the environment. Are these the necessary consequences for successful development? How can local populations overcome colonial powers and resist their movements to displace them and regain control?

Emily McManus

Week 10

In the book Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre, the authors identify the massive massacre that occurred on August 16th 2012 surrounding working conditions and the livelihood of employees working at a local mine. By assessing South Africa’s violent history, both apartheid and post-apartheid, the book sheds light on the role the government, mine company and mineworker’s union all played leading up to the massacre. More specifically, the authors assess how each contributed to developing the conditions that caused the massacre that day.

In the first chapter, the authors provide a detailed historical account of worker relations within the mining industry, particularly certain events that are believed to be related to the massacre. An intriguing topic discussed in this chapter is the use of physical violence to demonstrate a certain opinion to an opposing side, in this case the mine workers protesting against the mining company for higher wages and better working conditions. Physical violence was limited during this protest, regardless of workers being armed with various weapons, and even claimed as “peaceful” in comparison to previous strikes. The massacre on August 16th consisted of 34 people being killed and an additional 78 injured. Does it make a difference when the authors mention this is the first large massacre since apartheid? South Africa still has one of the highest crime rates in the world, with many murdered daily, indicating that the battle between races is far from over. Is it possible to fully eradicate physical violence, racial thinking and unequal job environments when the nation’s history is filled with these traditions? Why do you think police acted out in this way when the protesters were not equally, physically violent? Is this an embedded way of thinking developed due to societal relations? How can future protesters voice their rights and concerns without being afraid of such dramatic, physical reactions?

In Chapter 2, the authors discuss what occurred before the massacre in regards to communication between protesters and the mining company, mentioning specific threats about workers losing their jobs or their houses being burned. They mention the conditions that workers had to deal with daily and the lack of rights given with the job. An interesting aspect of this chapter is how the authors discussed how the media played a role in the massacre. Unsurprisingly, the topic was massively controversial in news sources and media outlets, generating plenty of discussion, debate and false information spreading through the public. The news sources that are controlled by one conglomeration displayed the protesters in a very specific image, one that was negative, dramatic, violent and cruel. This is far from what the protesters were actually acting like, since they were simply after improved human rights, higher wages and working conditions. Why do you think the media insists on stretching the truth, altering facts and portraying a particular image of those individuals involved? Is it possible for the public to ever know the truth about what happened if one conglomeration is altering what exactly they hear about the massacre? How is their stolen voice similar to other topics discussed in this course?

Chapter 5 focuses on the events that occurred after the massacre and the public and governments reaction. It centers on the bigger picture, understanding what this massacre means for post-apartheid South Africa and what it means for the future of mine workers. By including this analysis, the authors provide an effective, thorough outlook on the massacre and the role the government, news sources, international agencies and the public played in the event.

Week 10

By Breeanna Campbell

Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre, is a novel by a collection of activists and scholars. Marikana is the 3rd largest platinum mine in the world. As the title suggests, the book explores the events that unfolding during the Marikana worker protests in August 2012. The majority of people working for the mining company were uneducated, poor and black. Pay was the driving force that led to the protests. This book is used to expose the true working conditions of these miners (dangerous, long hours, no lunch breaks, poor air quality, falling rocks, low light, etc).

Unfortunately, the union for this mining company works for the employer, rather than the employees. For this reason, the workers formed a collective in order to organize themselves and demand a raise directly from their employer, rather than working through the union. Before the protests they were making R 4,000 per month (roughly the equivalent to 500 US dollars). They now demanded for R 12,500 in order to better support their families, and compensate them for the danger work they endured. This request was refused, and therefore the workers began to strike.

Throughout the duration of the strike, the owners of the mine had complete influence over the media and it was therefore illustrated that the miners were behaving irrationally. The National Union Mineworkers (NUM) began to open fire on the protestors and thus transforming this peaceful protest for justice, into a violent conflict. In other words, the maximum amount of force was used against unarmed workers, many of whom were shot in the back. The massacre could have likely been prevented, had the owners of the company agreed to meet with the appointed representative for the miners and discuss their wage.

I found Chapter five to be the most interesting piece of the book. I appreciated the authors’ choice to include these workers experiences and accounts, adding a human perspective to narrative. Oral stories are an incredibly useful tool, allowing readers access to real accounts and encouraging them to build their own perceptions. Using these stories cultivates a good relationship between academic and activist literature.

Workers’ Protest and New(?) Forms of State Violence

On August 16, 2015, South African police opened fire at thousand of striking miners in Marikana. They killed 34 people, and injured several others. This incident occured against the backdrop of South Africa’s awkward and iniquitous structural hegemony, certainly; but it also occurred specifically against the backdrop of the poor working conditions of lower-class South African workers, and the duplicitous neglect by the ANC government of the very people for whom their existence and rise to power is owed. Since the massacre on August 16, there have been several studies, dissertations, and articles accessing its intricacies specifically, and the South Africa’s (specifically, the ANC) anticlimactic government. This week, we read one of such studies — a book by a group of academics, journalists, and activists titled, Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre. 

The authors of this book set out, on their account, to discover how and why the massacre happened. To achieve this, they conducted their research somewhat non-hierarchically and from the bottom up by analyzing the massacre from the viewpoint of those most affected: the miners themselves. We learn that contrary to their depiction in popular media, these protesters were neither barbaric nor combative. The authors also make explicit their bias, if it can be called that, towards the miners and their plight. This bias seems to permeate the rhetoric in every aspect: they interviewed only the miners, without seemingly questioning the veracity of their testaments; they do not interview any others who might have had different, but equally poignant, narratives of the massacre. They also make several conclusions based on these interviews; this, in its right, is not indefensible, but, in fact, quite understandable given the circumstances of the massacre and in consideration of the grief stricken. But it does make one question the extent to which it can be said that the authors achieved their goal of getting to the bottom of the nature of the massacre and its intricacies.

Nevertheless, many of these conclusions are not off-point or unprecedented. The massacre, as we learn in the book, was in fact premeditated one way another by the diabolical troika consisting of the police commissioner and the ANC government, Lonmin, and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). This response was in their eyes justified because the strikers had been attempting to usurp the existing power structure dominated by the aforementioned troika.

The issues that linger on after having read the book are as follows: now that the wage requested by the miners has been granted, are we to ignore the other problems inherent in the business of mining, not just for platinum, but for other resources. These miners, even when well-paid, are still having to work in sub-par conditions — and the business itself is profitable at a great cost to the environment. It is also important, I think, to point out the genealogical similarities between ANC and other black, African nationalist movements. In Tanzania, Julius Nyerere was, like Mandela, heralded as the liberator of indigenous Tanzanians and the progenitor of the Tanzanian state; he still is heralded as such, but upon ascension to power, his regime failed on several occasions to deliver on its promise of black liberation. The same trajectory of disappointment can be seen too in Ghana (Nkrumah), Zimbabwe (Mugabe), and so on. It is obvious at this point that as a democratic unit the ANC, like Mugabe in Zimbabwe, functions undemocratically, to a certain degree, and wields too much power. Without being theatrical, it can be said that until this power is checked, occurrences, like the Marikana massacre (which was not unprecedented), that shake the bones of human conscience will continue to happen.

Moyosore Arewa

Week 10

GS 405 Week 11 Blog Post

Jordan Petruska

110173680

 

 

 

 

This week’s reading focused on the book Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre by Peter Alexander, Thapelo Lekgowa, Botsang Mmope and Luke Sinwell. These researchers provided a legitimate voice for the workers who were on strike and were originally blamed for the killings in the official discourse. Lonmin workers were making R 4,000 per month equivalent to $500 U.S.

The majority of the protesters were Rock drill operators who led the strike. These men would work 12-hour days in very harsh conditions without any benefits and in the article it was said that many of the workers suffered serious injuries while working in the mountain. The Lonmin Mine is the 3rd largest Platinum mine in the world as South Africa holds 77% of the World’s Platinum reserves. The massacre was not only preventable it was also planned. The Lonmin Mine is a British mining company that have been extracting platinum in South Africa for over 30 years and the executives carry heavy influence within the South African economy that they could not afford for production to stall so they had to take matters in their own hands with cooperation of the police. In addition the media played a vital role in oppressing the group on strike. The South African media government, and the National Union of Mineworkers kept portraying the protest workers as dangerous savages to the public to display a negative image. However in contrast, the researchers witnessed a consistent peaceful, disciplined and organized group of people. The Marikana Mining massacre was not just a human tragedy but a sober undertaking by powerful agents of the state organized to kill protest workers who temporarily stopped going underground to extract the world’s most precious metal, platinum. The article was not all filled with gloom and sad events it also include aspiring accounts as the workers did not fall back in silence after their 34 colleagues were murdered, instead they became determined and inspired to close the Lonmin mine down completely and eventually the mine bosses agreed to their salary demands. The purpose of the research was to provide a explicit understand of what happened during the massacre for the next generation to acknowledge and learn from. This was a very important purpose in my eyes as young people should become educated on how their government tries and continues to take advantage of the underprivileged and minority.

 

Week 10: Marikana-Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre

This week’s assigned text made me recall an important time in my Global Studies career when light was shed on an instance of mass human rights violations and the world experienced a déjà vu of South Africa’s apartheid regime. I recall witnessing the news broadcasts of this horrific event that took place in Marikana, and feeling paralyzed by the images of innocent bodies dispersed about and not understanding how this event was possible in 2012 post-apartheid SA. This week’s reading by Alexander, Sinwell, Lekgowa, Mmope, and Xezwi, most of whom are researchers from the University of Johannesburg, proves to be a detailed and critical recount of the Marikana massacre, one that challenges gruesome news stories, and penetrates the international community’s initial apathy towards intra-state conflict in Africa.

I appreciate the integrity of the authors and their attempts at achieving “ethnographic depth” through building relationships and solidarity with the workers and their family members. The researchers mentioned that one of the ways in which they were able to gain the trust and access valuable information from informants was by stating the future restorative/prevention-oriented purpose of their research.

This book defies all new broadcasting that says the police were acting “in defense”, as the authors blatantly express their findings of this massacre, and it being a completely pre-meditated action (by the state and others). In explaining the importance of an alternative perspective (non-mainstream voices) which make-up this text, i.e. through direct interviews with miners, their families and union members, I also beg the question of the importance of alternative perspectives external to South Africa, but separate from the international community. The latter and the media have been more of the central focus of this discussion, however, to rephrase the question, would it be worthwhile to explore the reactions and thoughts of other Africans, especially those who reside in other said democratic nation states? The reason I also ask this is because when I was in Accra, I noticed a fairly general sense/conception that South Africa as conceived as a very dangerous place. Even in the most informal conversations, Ghanaian youth would refer to South Africa as though it was a hopeless and distant country (in relations to Ghana), ridden with daily crimes and corruption. Although this may be a less-informed narrative, it is interesting to consider such alternative perspectives as well.

This week, more than all others, I find myself formulating more questions than opinions/answers in my response:

  1. What are some of the reasons behind why Marikana’s massacre was not declared as a state emergency in South Africa? If the violent group who orchestrated this mass murder were not state police, could/would they be considered terrorists?
  2. If we are to assign blame in order to identify paths to justice after this massacre, most, including the authors, point to these three: Lonmin, the South African police/government, and/or the National Union of Migrant workers. However, would it be sensible to also declare culpability to the parts of the international community that create the high demand for platinum that feeds into the mistreatment of workers in places like Lonmin’s Marikana mine, which is the 3rd largest mine of it’s kind in the world. Or, is this too much of a far-fetched and ambiguous idea to assert when there is evidently so much local corruption that could act as the sole cause of the problems that led to this massacre?
  3. Looking at this issue from a (Afro-/Neo-) Marxist perspective, would you be able to diagnose the outcomes of the massacre and the subsequent rallies as successes or failures of the working-class in South Africa?

Week 10

This week’s reading covered chapters 1,2 and 5 of the book Merikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre . A different type of reading this week it was an easier read as it left out a lot of academic jargon and focused more on the raw experience of the miner’s involved in the strike. Chapter one covered some of the preliminaries, difficulties of getting interviews, and covered some of the basic information regarding the events of the strike and massacre. Chapter two gave us a more detailed outline of the events from August 9th to August 16th and explained the reasoning behind the strike (they wanted to be paid more; miners in Australia and the UK are paid ten time the amount the miners are paid at Lonmin) and the poor working conditions for the miners (having contracts that say 8 hour work days but wold stay until the job is done which some workers reported to staying 12-15 hours). Something that really struck a cord with me in this chapter was when the author had stated  “For the Merikana strikers, the fear of death, present on August 16th, was not a new experience.” I thought this was very important because the working conditions in the mines were so poor that death and accidents were not uncommon and if they did not ask to be paid more things would not change, even if the conditions did not change they would be paid more fairly than what they were currently being paid. The third (or rather 5th) chapter contained the stories from the miners/strikers. When reading this chapter I really took the time to understand and process the information and stories of the miners. It was difficult to process at times as a result of how it was being told and the stories that were being shared, they brought up a lot of emotion and tales of trauma; but it was precisely this that made this reading stand out. Often when reading academic literature on similar topics they do not evoke too much emotion, I think that might be because when it comes to academic literature there is so much emphasis on keeping it professional and “academic” and that strips away some of the emotion which when discussing an event like this one, is crucial, in some ways it dehumanizes it when the emotions are removed and events are reduced to facts and numbers. But with this piece of writing the authors gave you the raw, unrefined stories of the miners, it gave it a different sense of legitimacy.

So my question is, how can issues of unfair pay and dangerous working conditions be addressed? Are scenarios like this a product of bigger problems (poverty, inequality) and should you address those bigger issues in hopes of a trickle down effect or do they need to be addressed more directly?

Jennifer D

Week 10: Workers’ Protest and New(?) forms of State Violence

Jessica Slade- 110232060

For the purposes of this week’s blog post, I will be responding to the work of Peter Alexander, Thapelo Lekgowa, Botsang Mmope, Luke Sinwell, and Bongani Xezwi in the book, “Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre.” This work was published in 2013 and provides reliable insight into the massacre that took the lives of many mine workers on strike in August of 2012. By providing insight into the thoughts and feelings of those directly involved, we are exposed to the raw and real accounts as presented by the interviews and testimonies.

In the beginning we read, “Chapter 1: Encounters in Marikana” which provided us with background information on the preceding events that lead up to the tragedy in Marikana. After numerous attempts to set a meeting with Lonmin, approx. 3000 workers walked off the job and began the strike. The workers were protesting poor condition and unfair wages, in a manner described as relatively peaceful in protests. Initially armed with sticks, machetes and spheres, their physical threat against authorities was minimal. In the coming days, 9 people were killed and this furthered the tensions on both sides. On August 16th, the South African Police Service was responsible for the deaths of 34 people and injuring 78 more. This event was significant as it was one of the greatest uses of force used against civilians, in post-apartheid Africa. Why are the encounters described in this chapter crucial to the events that lead up to the Marikana massacre? Were you surprised as to the rapid increase of violent events that occurred just days after the initial protest?

The next chapter required from this work was, “Chapter 2: A Narrative Account Based on Workers’ Testimonies”. Here we learn of the struggles associated with this line of work and the minimal rights that the miners were entitled to. In the days following the protests workers were warned that if they did not return to work they would be immediately dismissed from the company. Additionally there were threats regarding the ‘torching’ of their homes and physical threats of harm. The shooting was a controversial topic covered by many news sources and this chapter accounts for this in an investigative manner, examining the events in great detail. By compiling and comparing the roles of each actor (the African National Congress, the mine company and the National Union of Mineworkers), we can see the media was responsible for alienating the protesters by means of creating a narrative where they were ruthless savages- when in reality they were striking with hopes for a brighter future for their families. Why is recognizing the role of each actor important in establishing a full and clear picture of how the events played out? What was the role of each and how did they further support or refute the cause? How did the media play an important role in this cause; did it work to hinder the campaign or make it stronger?

“Chapter 5: Interviews with Mineworkers”, presents us with first hand and conclusive sense of what the leading events and after affects of the massacre. The unedited accounts provide the reader and literature with a sense of real justifications where workers emotions and feelings towards events are concerned. Gaining insight into the shooting and the events that preceded and followed it, we are able to conclude in creating a larger more in depth understanding of the roles of each actors and the opinions of each. Some of the most important that are touched on throughout the duration of this work are as follows: the government, opposition parties and politicians outside the government, trade unions, mine owners, strikers families, religious leaders, media, and the international community.

In doing further research into the legal implications of this event it is interesting to see that the of the miners arrested, 270 were charged with public violence- which was then later redefined as murder, regardless of the fact that the opposing forces shot at them. Here it is relevant to consider the biases present and how this has played out in the judicial system. Why is this relevant to the events that occurred? How is this a display of intentional bias in sentencing? Is systematic oppression a construction here; how does the narrative counter this or perpetuate it (consider the place of the union)? Where have we seen this occur before and what has the public opinion been on this type of action? Is this similar or different to the publics view on the charges seen in this case? By providing an emotional and personal insight into the events, the authors conclusively presented the events in a way that we are able to empathize with all those affected.

This image is interesting as it physically maps out each of the important sections of the events. In looking at this we are able to gain a more conclusive and insightful understanding as to the proximity of each occurrence.

This image is interesting as it physically maps out each of the important sections of the events. In looking at this we are able to gain a more conclusive and insightful understanding as to the proximity of each occurrence.

For a more current account, read the work published by Time Magazine in August of 2013: http://world.time.com/2013/08/16/south-africas-marikana-massacre-a-year-later-workers-and-unions-still-up-in-arms/ . This article takes a comprehensive look at how the events have continued to unfold and how worker and union relations are still strained.