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

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