Week 10: Marikana Massacre

This week’s reading was on the book Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre which attempts to understand the massacre at the South African Marikana mine on August 16th, 2012 in which the police intervened against three thousand miners on strike. This event has become a well-known atrocity due to the many deaths that occurred. Media has portrayed this event as something inevitable or to “control populations” but the authors seem to draw different conclusions.

This book is written by both an academic and political standpoint along with a narrative style through the lens of the workers and their specific experience within the massacre. This specific strike has gathered a lot of international attention due to the many deaths especially since many of the victims were said to be shot either in the back or far from the picket line. The media had claimed that the strikers were unruly and dangerous but Alexander seemed to portray that they always remained peaceful. This book which is based on qualitative research specifically in chapter 5, displayed many original interview transcripts, the book offers more data than many dissertations. It claims that, “merciless and bloody massacre had been planned in advance and was a sober undertaking by powerful agents of the state and capital who consciously organized to kill workers.” The authors seemed to view the three culprits of this atrocity as the police, the ANC government, the mining company and the National Union of Mineworkers. The authors suggest that the deployment of the units were not justified that the miners did not attack the police. Suspecting labour leaders of corruption, miners had rejected their representation, elected their own strike committees and demanded higher wage.

The descriptions are quite normative, depicting the workers has remarkably brave, mine bosses as cruel, the unions’ indifference as depressing and the police brutality awful. Many times in academia the true accounts and testimonies of the victims in incidents such as these are left out. I think this book was a crucial part to truly gather insight into what really went on during the massacre. Though the real meaning and goal of this book was to understand what really happened in Marikana and why? This is question was not thoroughly answered. After reading this book the conspiracy of what truly happened seems to be unsolved. The great first person experiences and data provided in this book are perfect for such academia in African studies along with a great read for social avidities. This book leaves room for more research into the cause of the Massacre.

  1. The Massacre in Marikina demonstrates that the state can simply gun down dozens of black workers with little or no backlash from civil society. Why is the state getting away with mass murder?
  2. Would the outcome be different if the miners had not used weapons as a defense mechanism? What could have changed if they took a strictly non-violent approach?

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