Week 10 – Workers’ Protest and New (?) forms of State Violence

This week’s readings focused on Peter Alexander, Botsang Mmope and Luke Sinwell’s book ‘Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre’. Chapter 1 discussed the difficulties the researchers faced in getting interviews, as well as provided background information on the issues surrounding the strike and massacre. The second chapter went into more depth in explaining and exposing the terrible working conditions in which workers not only risked their lives every day but often had to work double the amount of hours that their contract states. The miners are also subject to unfair wages, which are significantly lower compared to other countries such as Australia. The 5th chapter went even further in depth by sharing personal accounts and stories of the miners. This is something that is different than most of the readings we have done this semester. This angle taken towards the issue, sharing personal stories, has provided the reader with emotional connections to the miners and offers us a different perspective that is not strictly academic.

This reading gave a greater insight to police brutality and the power of the media, which is a very relevant topic in our world today. In this case specifically, miners were framed as the ‘bad guys’ and thought to be a large angry mob in which the police heroically gained control over. This was not the case however and it exposes how difficult it is to challenge government authority and uncover their wrongdoings to the world.

How are we supposed to achieve civil justice and peace when authority figures exempt themselves from punishable offences? How are workers supposed to fight for their rights and have their voices heard when they are responded to with brutality and violence? What can be done to protect workers from these actions in the future?

Emily McManus

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