Socialists and trade unionists are arranging screenings around Britain of the powerful new documentary Miners Shot Down.
Rehad Desai’s film about the 2012 massacre of 34 striking platinum miners at Marikana in South Africa is now available on DVD.
Showings can raise money for the justice campaign and the miners’ families.
Immediately after the killings, the police, the government and the bosses at the Lonmin-owned platinum mine all came together claiming it was self defence.
Rehad spoke to Socialist Worker about why he made the film. He said, “I felt obliged to do this, particularly in a context where no one was willing to side with this group of workers.
“In the months after the massacre we saw this was a watershed event and that put tremendous responsibility on our shoulders to do it justice.”
Miners Shot Down begins with the news footage that shocked the world of police opening fire on the miners with automatic weapons.
It subsequently describes each day of the strike to that point, destroying the myths that the authorities put out.
Rehad has been amazed at the response from ordinary people to the film, especially in South Africa. “It has far exceeded our expectations,” he said.
“Often requests come from communities that don’t have the ability to put on a screening themselves.
“We put the word out that we couldn’t meet the demand with the one set of equipment we had. So somebody donated another whole set of equipment.
“People have donated money to beef up our team so we can do more screenings.”
Those interviewed in the film include lawyer Jim Nichol, who represents many of the families at the official ongoing Farlam inquiry into the massacre. He compares what the police said at the time with evidence brought out at the inquiry.
There are powerful words from strikers Tholakele Dlunga and Mzoxolo Magidiwana.
They describe the unofficial strike and how the miners armed themselves with spears and clubs after being attacked by police officers and officials from the NUM.
This is the union most of them belonged to at the time.
The most shocking interviewee is an evasive Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy president and shareholder in Lonmin.
We also see footage of him as a militant NUM union leader in the 1980s.
“People should show this in Britain out of solidarity,” Rehad said. “But also know that the history of this company was in Lonrho, a company whose name came from its origins as the London and Rhodesian Mining Company. Lonmin is a spin off, British registered company.
“Even now, 25 to 30 percent of Lonmin shareholders are resident in Britain. These include the Church of England, the Unison union and the mineworkers’ investment pension fund.
“The South African government is generally sensitive to international criticism. The trade union movement should know about what happened and push to make a difference.”
The film has won a number of awards at festivals round the world.
Rehad said, “We’ve won four jury awards and have been opening night at a number of major film festivals. In South Africa the free-to-air broadcasters are refusing to show it. It is too much of a political hot potato.”