By Breeanna Campbell
Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre, is a novel by a collection of activists and scholars. Marikana is the 3rd largest platinum mine in the world. As the title suggests, the book explores the events that unfolding during the Marikana worker protests in August 2012. The majority of people working for the mining company were uneducated, poor and black. Pay was the driving force that led to the protests. This book is used to expose the true working conditions of these miners (dangerous, long hours, no lunch breaks, poor air quality, falling rocks, low light, etc).
Unfortunately, the union for this mining company works for the employer, rather than the employees. For this reason, the workers formed a collective in order to organize themselves and demand a raise directly from their employer, rather than working through the union. Before the protests they were making R 4,000 per month (roughly the equivalent to 500 US dollars). They now demanded for R 12,500 in order to better support their families, and compensate them for the danger work they endured. This request was refused, and therefore the workers began to strike.
Throughout the duration of the strike, the owners of the mine had complete influence over the media and it was therefore illustrated that the miners were behaving irrationally. The National Union Mineworkers (NUM) began to open fire on the protestors and thus transforming this peaceful protest for justice, into a violent conflict. In other words, the maximum amount of force was used against unarmed workers, many of whom were shot in the back. The massacre could have likely been prevented, had the owners of the company agreed to meet with the appointed representative for the miners and discuss their wage.
I found Chapter five to be the most interesting piece of the book. I appreciated the authors’ choice to include these workers experiences and accounts, adding a human perspective to narrative. Oral stories are an incredibly useful tool, allowing readers access to real accounts and encouraging them to build their own perceptions. Using these stories cultivates a good relationship between academic and activist literature.