Week 10

In the book Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre, the authors identify the massive massacre that occurred on August 16th 2012 surrounding working conditions and the livelihood of employees working at a local mine. By assessing South Africa’s violent history, both apartheid and post-apartheid, the book sheds light on the role the government, mine company and mineworker’s union all played leading up to the massacre. More specifically, the authors assess how each contributed to developing the conditions that caused the massacre that day.

In the first chapter, the authors provide a detailed historical account of worker relations within the mining industry, particularly certain events that are believed to be related to the massacre. An intriguing topic discussed in this chapter is the use of physical violence to demonstrate a certain opinion to an opposing side, in this case the mine workers protesting against the mining company for higher wages and better working conditions. Physical violence was limited during this protest, regardless of workers being armed with various weapons, and even claimed as “peaceful” in comparison to previous strikes. The massacre on August 16th consisted of 34 people being killed and an additional 78 injured. Does it make a difference when the authors mention this is the first large massacre since apartheid? South Africa still has one of the highest crime rates in the world, with many murdered daily, indicating that the battle between races is far from over. Is it possible to fully eradicate physical violence, racial thinking and unequal job environments when the nation’s history is filled with these traditions? Why do you think police acted out in this way when the protesters were not equally, physically violent? Is this an embedded way of thinking developed due to societal relations? How can future protesters voice their rights and concerns without being afraid of such dramatic, physical reactions?

In Chapter 2, the authors discuss what occurred before the massacre in regards to communication between protesters and the mining company, mentioning specific threats about workers losing their jobs or their houses being burned. They mention the conditions that workers had to deal with daily and the lack of rights given with the job. An interesting aspect of this chapter is how the authors discussed how the media played a role in the massacre. Unsurprisingly, the topic was massively controversial in news sources and media outlets, generating plenty of discussion, debate and false information spreading through the public. The news sources that are controlled by one conglomeration displayed the protesters in a very specific image, one that was negative, dramatic, violent and cruel. This is far from what the protesters were actually acting like, since they were simply after improved human rights, higher wages and working conditions. Why do you think the media insists on stretching the truth, altering facts and portraying a particular image of those individuals involved? Is it possible for the public to ever know the truth about what happened if one conglomeration is altering what exactly they hear about the massacre? How is their stolen voice similar to other topics discussed in this course?

Chapter 5 focuses on the events that occurred after the massacre and the public and governments reaction. It centers on the bigger picture, understanding what this massacre means for post-apartheid South Africa and what it means for the future of mine workers. By including this analysis, the authors provide an effective, thorough outlook on the massacre and the role the government, news sources, international agencies and the public played in the event.

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