Week 10

Mary Crawford

On August 16th 2012, a horrendous inhumane crime was committed, reminding the world of just how much cruelty there still is in this world. Many are quick to say “well that was a long time ago” when reflecting on the atrocities of the world, and yet only 3 years ago, innocent people were murdered in front of the international community. Despite South Africa being under a watchful eye since the apartheid, it seems as if there is little concern being taken or interventions being done. In the book, Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre, it is made clear that when those men were killed in the mines, their families’ chance of survival was also now dead.  Strikes in North America are seen as annoying and an inconvenience that is solved quickly in order to improve the work or pay of a group of people or union. Take York University as an example, professors and students have joined in unity to support the teaching assistants in their fight for improved support and pay. This was not the case in South Africa when a group a miners went on strike for higher pay. Police forces stepped in a killed 44 people and injuring 78 more, even though reports say that the workers ran and surrendered. This unnecessary use of force seriously invades the respects for one’s human rights which technically should call for an United Nations inquiry, holding the police responsible for their actions.

Unfortunately, media took hold of the story and changed it to meet the needs of the country. The events turned into a success in which the police were able to control a large angry mob that had become “out of hand” making it difficult to uncover the truth and punish those who were out of line. The workers have now armed themselves out of fear creating even more tension between them and the police. It seems as though South Africa claims to be past the apartheid stage, there is continuous infringements on human rights and injustices. This book challenges the reader to see that there is still on going cruelties being done all over the world and that little is being done to stop it. It is difficult now to say “well that was a long time ago” when it is happening right now, in their lifetime. Since the book includes personal accounts from various perspectives, the reader is able to formulate their own view on the issue, but many of the stories are difficult to process and can traumatize the reader as if the author was hoping to get a certain response.

Discussion Questions:

– Is there a way to bring this to the International Criminal Court and punish those responsible for the deaths?

– Could the workers have chosen another way to ask for higher pay or was the strike their last straw?

Week 10

The book Marikana was an attempt to show the massacres that took place in The North of South Africa’ Platinum belt in August, 2012. The book’s aim is to portray the atrocious acts taken by the Police, Mining Company and Government and to present them through the lens of the victims and their mourning families using accounts of oral re-telling and in depth interview processes shortly after the events would take place. The Platinum mine workers for the Lonmin company began to protest for higher wages. When non-violently confronting their Union NUM they were openly fired upon, days later retreating into the mountains they requested once again peacefully that they have an opportunity to meet with their employer to discuss negotiations for higher monthly wages in order to increase sending capacities to their families and to assist in instalments including work supplies, clothing and groceries. The number 1. employer (Mr. Zokwana) at first not agreeing to meet, would later show up in a HIPPO armoured vehicle to simply made it known that these employees of the mine should return to their duties or the government and police forces would act accordingly and clear them from the land. The five Madoda was the selected representation for the workers trying to achieve their wage increase as they were the best negotiators and most mild tempered, unfortunately the NUM and the employers truly did not care for any form of organized voice and after the police deceivingly saying they “just wanted to build a relationship” with the Madoda and the workers there would be no progressive ground throughout the week. The President of AMCU after failing to bring forth an employer would attempt to appeal to the workers one last time pleading them to return to the mines or else the now arrived government soldiers and police forces surrounding protest grounds would “spill their blood”. The Madoda and the workers declined to move if negotiations would not go on, from that point on HIPPO vehicles would lay barbed wire around the perimeter of their mountain haven and proceed without warning to open fire with machine guns. Many lives were lost and personal accounts reflected upon this day as one of mourning and great sadness, workers who were non-violently protesting for an equitable share of company wages with the recent increase in company stock share value were killed in the mountains running away from bullets and being shot in the back and run down by militarized vehicles and beaten senselessly if caught hiding or left amongst the carnage. This was a traumatizing day and a significant set back for the country of South Africa. It was also reported on some accounts that the NUM were attacking the workers homes in accordance to cracking down on worker non-compliance. Children would now grow up without incomes to properly feed and educate them and worst of all fathers and husbands were lost at the hand of a greedy corporation who saw these people as disposable, unequal and not-deserving of a better life in the mines when they would try to take a stand for working class empowerment. There was a great continuity to the stories told by miners, working conditions were awful (working with chemical, falling debris and commonly contracting TB from dust), over-time work was common with little to no compensation and the onsite medical facilities were not concerned with proper diagnosing and mine foremen would often hide injuries or minors and coerce workers to blame them-self for the accident. Women were also widely marginalized as having lesser rights than males in the mines and could not be seen protesting or rallying union support because they were held to a lesser regard and were more likely to be terminated on a whim by an onlooking worker who sought to display loyalty to the employers by reporting them. Through these tellings you understand that the cycle of poverty in Africa repeats as children are left with no father and will one day most likely have to seek out similar work because they are leveraged socially and economically to do so, while single parents rely on assistance from the sate to subsidize feeding and educating children creating an interdependence which will constrain them from opportunity. It can be understood that in mining life, South Africa’s post apartheid progression has resonated little with foreign mining companies and that mining culture still has a perpetual narrative of segregation, absence of justice and unequalness to it that is demanded by the global capitalistic paradigm that’s sole purpose is to generate wealth and growth at the expense of essentially enslaving people and stripping them of their rights. These violent crimes acted out by the State are an indication that South Africa still has immense progress to make recognizing the rights and capital of their citizens, the ones who work harder than anyone and are the reason some people can enjoy a luxurious lifestyles while others must go without basic necessities, I truly could not believe this was in 2012 during a peaceful protest that’s only act of aggression was taking a brave stance and collectively chanting and singing. Unions are a front, as they serve the employers not the employed and government cooperation with unions also serves as a front as they only serve truly intend to serve the economic interests of the country while corporations have military and police forces in their pocket. This reading was very common in its themes to previous weeks of examining Dam building and Ore mining in the Continent as that post colonial narrative driven by commerce continues to implicate those native to the regions.

Would the mining industry collapse without abusing humans?

Are there any grass roots movements paired with social programs and outside NGO’s possessing capital that could make a voice for these injustices?

How could turning a profit also turn into empowering workers globally? Also, could an intiative be sought using journalism, political connections and media connections to host a transparency campaign?

Also, to plextremely ay devil’s advocate how accurate are these re-tellings right after extremely traumatic events?

Week 10 – Marikana

Naomi Pearson

This week’s readings focused on the book “Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre” by Peter Alexander, Thapelo Lekgowa, Botsang Mmope, Luke Sinwell and Bongani Xezwi. It discussed the murder of thirty-four peaceful mine workers on August 16, 2012 and was the most violent use of force in South Africa since the end of the Apartheid state. These workers were peacefully protesting the horrible conditions, and the many hours they were forced to work in the platinum mines. However, the South African security forces reacted violently against the mass protest and killed thirty-four of the protesters, injuring many more. The media portrayed the incident as the protesters having become violent and the police as having “just done their job.” However, the book takes a strong position, arguing that this was not at all the case. Through strong oral narratives an histories from mines workers, mine workers wives and many witnesses, the authors create a far different picture of what happened on that day. One of discrimination and violence against the mine workers which ended in murder.

These oral histories make up a large section of the book and lend significant amounts of credibility to the author’s arguments. As Dr. Cammaert has mentioned in lecture, in order to write in African history or literature, having oral histories is vitally important. Therefore, as the authors in Marikana are crafting an alternative version of a historical event, it is extremely important that they have the oral histories and witnesses to these alternative views to back up their view point. I also found it quite interesting that the authors were quite obviously pushing their view point in the book, that they took an angle in their writing- something that many academics are hesitant to do.  What struck me most about the readings is that we often tend to think of South Africa as a nation past most of their violence- much like Canada. However, every now and then something creeps up and we are reminded that we really aren’t past that racism and that ugliness and we have to constantly keep working to make sure our society keeps moving forward.

1) Have their been similar situations in Canada where the government and the media have re-framed the narrative against peaceful activists or when times when protesters have been killed by police?

2) How is the academic narrative different when it is coming from an activist perspective than from an ‘unbiased’ perspective?

Marikana

This week we read Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre.  It is written to examine and give voice to the survivors and victims of the massacre that took place by police against miners striking for wage increases.  The book starts by giving some background information about the mine, workers, working conditions, and situation leading up the event.  Miners were overworked and underpaid and banded together in order to peacefully meet with their employer and request equal compensation for their labour.  Unfortunately, their attempts were met with negatively and with physical violence.  It is interesting to note that the strike by the miners, as told by miners, was very well organized and peaceful.  They elected members from within to act as spokespeople, representatives, negotiators, and peacekeepers.  Their intention was to act in a nonviolent manner and to keep the strike peaceful (unlike other demonstrations which occurred before).  The ensuing massacre on the miners by paramilitary police on August 16, 2012 showed that their employers were more interested in keeping their own profits at the cost of the lives of their employees.  Many had witnessed the murder of their follow workers and it remains a traumatic experience for all those involved, including the families of those who were killed.

This book is written mainly through the voices of survivors and families, through interviews and first-hand accounts of what took place.  It is able to give a platform for these people to tell the world what happened to them which would perhaps otherwise be left on the wayside of African affairs.  By the accounts given by these people, the strikes and protests were initially peaceful in nature.  Protesters would be calm and sing on their way to meet their employer.  It was until they were attacked by security forces and police did the miners arm themselves for reasons of self defense.  Also by the accounts, the employer would not even hear what the demands were and simply told the miners to go back to work.  I find this to be an interesting choice made by the authors to not interview or inquire to the company to find the other side of the story.  I am in no way condoning the actions of the security or police forces.  But it seems strange that the employer is framed as so stereotypically unreasonable and isn’t investigated further.  It falls into the danger of accepting the single-story as truth.  How might this book change if Lonmin had also been interviewed and their side of the story been included?  What makes this situation different than the Chinese mines we had read about earlier in the course?

Josh S

Week 10

This week we read Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre which looks deeply into the perspective of local voices on the Marikana Massacre, especially the workers and miners that were involved. This massacre which has affected so many workers or miners, through state violence. Workers went of strike in order to force wage’s to be increased to a more fair level, these strikes lead to many deaths. This book explores the use of violence in the face of protests, and the excessive violence that many felt was done. This marikana massacre happened in late 2012, this book was published in 2013, almost a year later. This I feel is important context as it gives voice to the people at the time they need that voice heard. To be able to interview and write about the massacre in a years time shows the commitment of the authors to show the issue. Voices such as those in this book can only be heard because of this passion in the authors. There may be many massacres, deaths, and injustices that are not known because the voices can never be heard. Even this narrative would not be know by myself without this class. How important is it to have this perspective of the local to understand these injustices? How important is an academic publication to these voices? Would the same perspective and voices be heard in any other narrative?
This voice gives accounts of the affects of the massacre, the authors allow for the lower class to be heard. Those that revolt and protest their own conditions in order to be heard by the corporations and government of South Africa. Mining is an illustrious business in Africa but is very much seen to be exploitive of its laborers and regulations. Through narratives such as this it brings perspective for those around the world, but what is the point of this? Is this narrative going to speak to South Africa, or be interpreted by the international academics? Who is this narrative meant to inform, is it meant to provoke change or prevent further massacres? Does this apply only to South Africa’s mining industry, or to question other countries industries?
Class systems and exploitation are important issues in this book as well, as seen with the lower class miners being treated so unjustly. This gap is important in the context of development, while mining is a positive economic system. The affects of this positive does not make it to the lower classes. This gap is seen throughout our course, and can be seemingly ignored. That is the other importance of this idea of ‘voices’, the usual ignored are able to be heard. The gap that is hidden in development needs to be a focus. It must be heard and is what these authors are attempting.

Week 10: Marikana Massacre

This week’s reading was on the book Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre which attempts to understand the massacre at the South African Marikana mine on August 16th, 2012 in which the police intervened against three thousand miners on strike. This event has become a well-known atrocity due to the many deaths that occurred. Media has portrayed this event as something inevitable or to “control populations” but the authors seem to draw different conclusions.

This book is written by both an academic and political standpoint along with a narrative style through the lens of the workers and their specific experience within the massacre. This specific strike has gathered a lot of international attention due to the many deaths especially since many of the victims were said to be shot either in the back or far from the picket line. The media had claimed that the strikers were unruly and dangerous but Alexander seemed to portray that they always remained peaceful. This book which is based on qualitative research specifically in chapter 5, displayed many original interview transcripts, the book offers more data than many dissertations. It claims that, “merciless and bloody massacre had been planned in advance and was a sober undertaking by powerful agents of the state and capital who consciously organized to kill workers.” The authors seemed to view the three culprits of this atrocity as the police, the ANC government, the mining company and the National Union of Mineworkers. The authors suggest that the deployment of the units were not justified that the miners did not attack the police. Suspecting labour leaders of corruption, miners had rejected their representation, elected their own strike committees and demanded higher wage.

The descriptions are quite normative, depicting the workers has remarkably brave, mine bosses as cruel, the unions’ indifference as depressing and the police brutality awful. Many times in academia the true accounts and testimonies of the victims in incidents such as these are left out. I think this book was a crucial part to truly gather insight into what really went on during the massacre. Though the real meaning and goal of this book was to understand what really happened in Marikana and why? This is question was not thoroughly answered. After reading this book the conspiracy of what truly happened seems to be unsolved. The great first person experiences and data provided in this book are perfect for such academia in African studies along with a great read for social avidities. This book leaves room for more research into the cause of the Massacre.

  1. The Massacre in Marikina demonstrates that the state can simply gun down dozens of black workers with little or no backlash from civil society. Why is the state getting away with mass murder?
  2. Would the outcome be different if the miners had not used weapons as a defense mechanism? What could have changed if they took a strictly non-violent approach?

Week 10: Mining Massacre

The massacre of mine workers was said to be due to unruly workers, and the need to control a populations, however, after researchers have spoken to locals affected by the massacre it seems that the event was coldly calculated by the government. The massacre of August 16th, 2012 affected the families of the men working in the mines and the workers who are no striking in hopes of positive changes for mine workers.

The researchers writing this text hope to share the voices of local families affected by those who died, and of the mine workers now striking for better pay and safer conditions. Families have shared that they are no longer able to support their children. The government has provided minimal groceries for three months after the deaths but this does not compare to the food which was available when their husbands were working. In addition to support financially, the families are also seeking answers as to what happened to these men. Children were told that their fathers won’t be returning home, but they haven’t been told of the deaths. Women wonder whether these deaths were planned in advance by governments, and why.

The ongoing protesters are much more careful about their actions in hopes of not recreating the events of August 16th. As designated speakers negotiate with officials the crowd kneels. Each protester is visible but they remain calm, less likely to rally while knelt. Their weapons are placed facing down as not to provoke the government officials. Everything is planned to resemble what happened on August 16th, but to ensure that violence is avoided. The researchers not the air of violence and unsafety, there is a feeling on tension between those negotiating. Something which I found to be interesting but also extremely intelligent was the protestors recognizing that not everyone could be heard when speaking. Having designated speakers helped keep the protest concise and ensured important messages were conveyed. Rather than allowing each person to make a speech agreed demands were coming from one voice. This allowed for negotiations to run smoothly and for officials (government, or those opposing the protestors) to have someone to speak directly to.

The researchers focus on this as an uprising and means of the working class coming together to present their demands and to ensure a better future. Chapter 5 focuses on the direct voices of mine workers and the interviews conducted with them. The workers spoke of their positions in the mine, the tools they operate, the conditions they work under, and their thoughts on the protest. One worker specifically spoke about the union which they are represented by. He says that although the union is meant to ensure their well-being in reality it does not focus on the workers, providing no security.

Discussion Questions

  1. Is there a way in which the mine workers could successfully present their case to a government agency and receive the changes they desire? Is it likely they will be recognized by these officials, or will their treatment continue to as it?
  2. How does the presentation of the voices in this text, and others over the past few weeks, change global perception of development projects? Is it important that these voices are heard? In what ways do they create change, and what are the lasting outcomes?

Week 9: Dams and Displacement

This week focused on the Cahora Bassa dam which was built in Mozambique across the Zambezi River. The text offered a summary of the project introducing it as a physical project and expanding as to how it affected those living near the dam. The text offered first-hand accounts of experiences from locals who had been promised new homes for their families.

Before being relocated families were promised new villages with schools, hospitals, houses, and other necessary amenities. However, when they arrived many locations were simply empty plots of land on which families were forced to build homes. These villages were also surrounded by barbed wire fences and the residents were required to ask for permission to leave the compound. This was interesting to me as it spoke less to the need to protect the residents from animals or people outside and more to keeping residents within the compound. It was explained that when leaving the compound villagers were supervised to ensure that they were not interacting with Frelimo vigilantes, or supplying them with food or weapons. Even in connection to the ongoing attacks though it seems as though these villages were established as means of supervising villagers and controlling their movement, rather than securing their safety and providing a place to live. To me was one of the most suspicious aspects of the dam project.

                 The number of lasting effects on the environment and people surrounding the dam brings into question the legitimacy of it as a development project. Although the dam did create energy for South Africa it provided little to no positive incentives for those effected. The effects felt by those living downstream were most surprising for me. Before reading this text I had understood that those living above the dam would be affected by the flooding, however, I had not realized the extensive drought and flooding patters that would be created for those living downstream from the dam. It makes sense due to the changes in water flow potential, however this is not something I had previously considered.

                One aspect of loss which I found especially interesting was the spiritual loss experienced by those living on the land. For many villages this land was connected to past generations and the spirits of past Chiefs. They were protecting sacred burial grounds and performing traditional rituals on the land. In these cases not only did they lose their homes but they also lost their connection to their spiritual history and their ancestors. With this some people believe the unpredictable flood patterns and negative outcomes they are experiencing due to the dam are also connected to a punishment from their ancestors. As a repercussion for abandoning their sacred burial grounds their ancestors are no longer protecting their crop yields.

Before working with my group to create our presentation I had also not considered the importance specifically of “development rhetoric” to promote this project and ones like it. I understood that the locals had been misled in terms of outcomes of the project but I had not realized the importance specifically of using the word development and the promise of becoming more developed to promote the project. I think this was an extremely important point which was raised by Naomi, and one which is important to consider when discussion projects like this in Global Studies.

Discussion Questions

  1. Was the security established as the displacement compounds focusing on protecting those in the compound, or is the focus on preventing the villagers from leaving the compound?
  2. If those displaced were not properly compensated for the land they lost, what would have been enough? Is there an amount that was equal to their loss?

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

Sarah Virani

            Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre discusses the massacre of strikers in the mining industry on August 16, 2012. The book provides testimonies from various mineworkers, which delivers a view of the incident from a perspective that you would not be exposed to traditionally, allowing the Marikana workers to speak for themselves and tell their own accounts of the events that led up to the massacre in 2012. After their employer Lomnin failed to listen to their basis for a decent wage, workers began to strike. Not only did the workers want a decent wage, but they also wanted improved working conditions as they were forced to work in hazardous conditions under fear or threat. This book truly draws upon the failed objectives of the National Union of Mineworkers as it failed to equally represent the workers and the African National Congress which did not stop the events from being carried out in post-apartheid South Africa.

The fear of being shot at again forced them to carry weapons, which is interesting because they did not initially arm themselves, but peacefully protested until the police attacked them. Rather than arming themselves with guns, which the police force did, they carried traditional weapons appropriate to their culture such as sticks and spears. It makes me question why the police had to use such violent force in order to diffuse the strikers, when the strikers were peacefully protesting. The presence of corruption is a problem and especially in the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), and this must be addressed in order for the mineworkers to be rightfully represented and to prevent another incident like the Marikana massacre from occurring.

I believe that it is very important for books like this one to be published as they expose the sides to conflicts and incidents that are often ignored in the media and remain unknown. By giving agency to the workers to speak about the issue, we are able to see how the issue affected them rather than the fabrication of the truth, which is what we normally hear. As we often only hear one side to the case, this book does an adequate job of displaying how mineworkers resisted the capitalist labour relations of production affected the lives of the workers. The number of people that were massacred varied depending on who released the number, thus its important to reveal the other side to the one-sided story that is the one we often hear most frequently.

It is also important to draw upon the social class differences amongst the police and the mineworkers and how this affects their treatment. In the book, one of the miners wives mentions how without her husband it is very hard to sustain a living while the children of the police officers were able to eat better food and had a chance at more opportunities. The oppression that the miners were faced with from the state and its institutions reflect the greater issue of systemic violence and oppression that exists in South Africa. In conclusion, this book is an eye opener as it depicts how the miners resisted the oppression that they were faced with, standing up for themselves, yet it backfired at them and they encountered horrific violence. It allows outsiders to see how miners are treated and the many inequalities that they are faced with by giving those involved the agency to share their experiences.

Miners Shot Down is a documentary about the massacre in Marikana and follows the events of the strike from the beginning, also portraying the events from the miners’ perspective.  Here is the trailer for the documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkK_T_vz7cY

Discussion Questions

  • What lessons can be learned from the Marikana massacre?
  • How can we hold corporations accountable for the irreversible effects that mining has on the miners, the communities nearby, the environment, etc? Is it even possible?

Week 10: Workers Protests and State Violence

This week we are focussing on worker’s protests and state violence and focussing specifically on the Marikana Massacre through the book Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre. The massacre that occurred in Marikana, South Africa took place on August 16th, 2012 after miners from the local Lonmin mine went on strike in protest for wage increases. On this day, 44 people were killed and 78 were injured. This incident is largely criticized due to the records of men being shot from behind as they were running away, contradicting the legitimate use of force argued by police forces. According to the authors, this event has been reported at the most lethal use of force by South African security forces since the apartheid ended in the 1960s. The book Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Massacre is an attempt to examine the history of events that led to the massacre and the role of the South African government, the Lonmin mining company and the National Union of Mineworkers in creating the conditions that led to the massacre. According to the authors, “As we learned more about this merciless and bloody massacre through the worker’s voices and eye-witness accounts, we came to the realisation that this was not only preventable, it had been planned in advance.” (16) During the strike, the media portrayed the men on strike as savage and ruthless, however, this book exposes the truth behind the individual fathers and husbands that were killed fighting for a better life for their families. “In contrast to the dominant view put forth by the media, government and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which suggests that the workers were an unruly and dangerous mob who needed to be controlled and contained, we learned that the workers were, and remain, disciplined, peaceful and very well organized.” (16) As a result, this book is an attempt to understand the massacre that occurred on August 16 through interviews with the workers involved and people who witnessed it first hand, along with the family members of those who were killed. Through their researchers, the authors also attempted to build relationships with those that they interviewed and in the end came to feel a sense of solidarity with them.

Overall, I think that this book largely forces its readers to call into question the continuing injustices that are being faced throughout the world. It exposes not only the mal treatment and horrible working conditions of miners in South Africa, but also the repercussions that they face by their government and security forces when they try to stand up for themselves. This book provides an extremely personal account of those who suffer the most from these injustices, as well as the lack of consideration that is given to them in a country that considers itself to be ‘democratic’.

How can these examples of state violence be related within a Canadian context? What does this say about systemic oppression? What is the point of a Union that works to oppress you?

– M. Thwaites