Week 10 – Marikana

Naomi Pearson

This week’s readings focused on the book “Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre” by Peter Alexander, Thapelo Lekgowa, Botsang Mmope, Luke Sinwell and Bongani Xezwi. It discussed the murder of thirty-four peaceful mine workers on August 16, 2012 and was the most violent use of force in South Africa since the end of the Apartheid state. These workers were peacefully protesting the horrible conditions, and the many hours they were forced to work in the platinum mines. However, the South African security forces reacted violently against the mass protest and killed thirty-four of the protesters, injuring many more. The media portrayed the incident as the protesters having become violent and the police as having “just done their job.” However, the book takes a strong position, arguing that this was not at all the case. Through strong oral narratives an histories from mines workers, mine workers wives and many witnesses, the authors create a far different picture of what happened on that day. One of discrimination and violence against the mine workers which ended in murder.

These oral histories make up a large section of the book and lend significant amounts of credibility to the author’s arguments. As Dr. Cammaert has mentioned in lecture, in order to write in African history or literature, having oral histories is vitally important. Therefore, as the authors in Marikana are crafting an alternative version of a historical event, it is extremely important that they have the oral histories and witnesses to these alternative views to back up their view point. I also found it quite interesting that the authors were quite obviously pushing their view point in the book, that they took an angle in their writing- something that many academics are hesitant to do.  What struck me most about the readings is that we often tend to think of South Africa as a nation past most of their violence- much like Canada. However, every now and then something creeps up and we are reminded that we really aren’t past that racism and that ugliness and we have to constantly keep working to make sure our society keeps moving forward.

1) Have their been similar situations in Canada where the government and the media have re-framed the narrative against peaceful activists or when times when protesters have been killed by police?

2) How is the academic narrative different when it is coming from an activist perspective than from an ‘unbiased’ perspective?

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