Marikana

This week we read Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre.  It is written to examine and give voice to the survivors and victims of the massacre that took place by police against miners striking for wage increases.  The book starts by giving some background information about the mine, workers, working conditions, and situation leading up the event.  Miners were overworked and underpaid and banded together in order to peacefully meet with their employer and request equal compensation for their labour.  Unfortunately, their attempts were met with negatively and with physical violence.  It is interesting to note that the strike by the miners, as told by miners, was very well organized and peaceful.  They elected members from within to act as spokespeople, representatives, negotiators, and peacekeepers.  Their intention was to act in a nonviolent manner and to keep the strike peaceful (unlike other demonstrations which occurred before).  The ensuing massacre on the miners by paramilitary police on August 16, 2012 showed that their employers were more interested in keeping their own profits at the cost of the lives of their employees.  Many had witnessed the murder of their follow workers and it remains a traumatic experience for all those involved, including the families of those who were killed.

This book is written mainly through the voices of survivors and families, through interviews and first-hand accounts of what took place.  It is able to give a platform for these people to tell the world what happened to them which would perhaps otherwise be left on the wayside of African affairs.  By the accounts given by these people, the strikes and protests were initially peaceful in nature.  Protesters would be calm and sing on their way to meet their employer.  It was until they were attacked by security forces and police did the miners arm themselves for reasons of self defense.  Also by the accounts, the employer would not even hear what the demands were and simply told the miners to go back to work.  I find this to be an interesting choice made by the authors to not interview or inquire to the company to find the other side of the story.  I am in no way condoning the actions of the security or police forces.  But it seems strange that the employer is framed as so stereotypically unreasonable and isn’t investigated further.  It falls into the danger of accepting the single-story as truth.  How might this book change if Lonmin had also been interviewed and their side of the story been included?  What makes this situation different than the Chinese mines we had read about earlier in the course?

Josh S

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