The killing of 34 strikers, platinum miners who were simply demanding a decent wage on 16 August 2012 by South African police shocked the world because it was reminiscent of the worst brutalities of apartheid.
This book was written as the Marikana Judicial Commission of Inquiry began in October 2012. It was written to tell the story of the strike and to counter the misinformation in the press that the police were “defending themselves” against an armed group of workers. Through a series of interviews the authors build a picture of the events which led to the moments when the strikers were shot.
Many of the interviews used by Peter Alexander were conducted by researchers while they were on the mountain examining the forensic evidence. The first killings occurred 200 metres from the National Union of Miners office. “Mineworker 10 said bluntly: ‘NUM shot its own people”
The reader is taken through the failed attempts at negotiations from the start of the strike to the climax of the massacre when the strikers were either shot by automatic gunfire in front of TV cameras or crushed by armoured vehicles.
The writers also use maps of the area and photographs of the injured and dead to make a case that both the police and government were responsible for the massacre. More chilling for me as a trade union member was the role of the NUM. Mineworker 10 insists “If the NUM had waited for our mandate none of this would have happened.”
The interviews of ten miners some who were union representatives and others ordinary rock drillers are also helpful in understanding the unfolding of the strike , the development of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) as a union and the relationship between the AMCU and the NUM. The miners talk about their daily life, why they came to Marikana, the squalor of their living conditions and their struggle to survive working long hours. The descriptions of the pain at the loss of friends killed in the massacre is heart breaking. However the courage and tenacity of the workers throughout the period of the strike is both humbling and inspiring.
Peter Alexander, the South African Research Chair for Social Change and SWP member, concludes this extraordinary book with an analysis of the parties who are culpable in this massacre. He refers to a “triangle of torment” that connects Lonmin the mine owners, the police and the NUM and extends to the government as the key parties culpable. The book ends with a number of insightful suggestions of why the Marikana miners stayed on the hill despite the threat to their lives. If you want to find out how and why these workers stayed, fought and won read this book!
Marikana is published by Bookmarks, £7.99
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