Marikana Miners: A Bloody Tale of Corruption

November 14, 2012 2:00 pm

What really happened on the 16th August at Lonmin mines?  Almost three months on, this case- originally labelled tragic but unavoidable- has seen more and more evidence of a blatant cover-up being brought to the surface.

The story starts with a group of miners at Lonmin mines in Marikana, South Africa, striking for a pay rise. On the 10th August, 3000 miners walked out as part of a “wildcat strike”-meaning a strike that hasn’t received authorisation by the unions. A day later, two people had already been killed. The next three days, nine more. Five days after that, the death toll had reached 34.

The 10th August shootings are rather vague and it is unknown who fired on whom as the victims were made up of police, union officials and miners alike. What is known however, is it all occurred against the backdrop of disunity and chaos among two rival unions. Then, on the 16th August the police opened fire on the miners, killing 34 and injuring more.

The killings shook the world, being the bloodiest case of police brutality against civilians since the end of apartheid. And the response from the South African government? It was dubbed an “act of self-defence”, justified by the fact that the miners were carrying weapons, a hand gun was said to have been fired and two police officers were killed. As a result of the latter, 270 of the miners were charged with murder, but after global outrage the charges were dropped. The miners later received their pay rise, a hollow victory that came at a very high price.

However, it has recently come to light that weapons may have been planted on the miners. One piece of photographic evidence shows two photos of the same victim, the first with no weapons visible and one taken later in the day that shows a machete near the victim’s hand. This comes alongside some new evidence by journalist Greg Marinovich that suggests the miners were shot at a second site, with bullet wound in their backs suggesting an execution-style shooting. It is also suggested that some of those at the second site were hiding when they were killed. One had twelve bullet wounds, unlike the vast majority that had one or two.

Three months after the murders and only now is there serious suggestions that the police may have perverted the course of justice. It will take four more months before the investigation will be complete. It appears that this evidence is not enough to damn them yet. Not all the photos, videos or reports from witnesses-who also report being tortured by the police-are enough to make these murderers feel remorse. Instead, they are made out to have been honorably defending themselves against an out-of-control group of miners.

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  • ChrisRobinson

    Excellent article, Khia, and brings bang up to date some aspects of my previous pieces on this very subject. Thank you.
    I’m glad you chose to put quotes around the word ‘wildcat’ as in ‘wildcat’ strikes. This is a term bandied around for decades by, mostly, the rightwing tabloid press in order to denigrate workers taking matters into their own hands when faced with, not only opposition from management and/or government, but their own union ‘leaders’ (notice MY use of quotes around the word ‘leaders’.
    ‘Wildcat’ tries to suggest that workers who choose to sweep aside those union bureaucrats who place obstacles in their way are something ‘wild’, ‘untamed’, ‘animalistic’, ‘hostile’ or ‘backward’. When, in fact, the opposite is the truth. The meaning of words are so important. ‘Wildcat strike’ suggests a political agenda and gives the lie to the myth about unbiased, impartial journalism. Newspapers do not live suspended in mid-air, they have a point of view to peddle and most newspapers are capitalist enterprises that support, at the very least, the political status quo.
    In this particular case, in Marikana, the miners had no choice but to organise their own strike as their union – the NUM – were so blatantly on the side of the company, actually owns shares in the company, so they were ALWAYS going to oppose the strike, or even the pay claim. And this strategy has paid off, they have won a 22% pay rise, and deservedly so, and only the connivance of the company, the NUM and the government led to the tragic deaths of the 34 miners on that day. Now, the strike has spread much further afield and the lid has been taken off the economic apartheid that is today’s South Africa!
    Again, good article.

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