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?

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