Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Miners Shot Down: Blood On Whose Hands?

Marinovich is a photojournalist who closely covered the so-called Marikana massacre of August 2012 in which 34 striking mine workers were shot dead by police. According to him, the police’s story of acting in innocent self-defence is a lie. “They went and carried on hunting down people, for twenty minutes.”

Interviewed by Rehad Desai in his new documentary, Miners Shot Down, Marinovich’s words form part of a forensic case built up over the course of the film that forcefully indicts the police, the government and the Lonmin mining company for their respective roles in the most deadly display of state violence witnessed in post-apartheid South Africa. It may have been rank-and-file police officers pulling the triggers, but, Desai’s film concludes, it is those at the top – “those who pulled the strings” – who bear greatest responsibility.
“Heads need to roll at a very high level,” argues Ronnie Kasrils, a former minister for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and outspoken critic of President Jacob Zuma’s government. To date, not one policeman has been charged for what took place at Marikana, victims have been both blamed and put on trial, and suspicions of a cover-up stubbornly linger.

 Miners Shot Down – drawing upon evidence presented to the Commission of Inquiry, which is still ongoing, and some original material – interrogates the lines of communication descending from the government down to the foot soldiers, suggesting professional failings of incompetence and corruption. Who ordered the use of live ammunition? What was the nature of the relationship between the police and Lonmin, and between Lonmin and the ANC? Why has no police office or government minister been held accountable, whereas 270 of the miners faced common purpose murder charges (until they were belatedly dropped last month)?
These are the questions that ought to detain the official inquiry, though Desai is sceptical of the integrity of the process and doubtful it will produce satisfactory results. But the film goes further, situating the events of Marikina within a context wider than that of police or government corruption.

As Desai reflects in the film’s opening scenes, Marikana can be placed along a historical road leading from Sharpesville in 1960 via Soweto in 1976: a mass killing uncomfortably redolent of the massacres of apartheid, reminding citizens of the new South Africa that the arrival of formal democracy has not brought about the full dismantling of the apartheid state. Rather, Marikana was a thoroughly familiar event: as Charlayne Hunter-Gault wrote in the New Yorker at the time: “The bloody episode in this eighteen-year-old black-majority democracy takes many back to the days of white-minority rule, when policemen routinely fired on and killed thousands of South Africans fighting for their freedom.”

The real meaning of Marikana, Jerome Roos argued, is that it showed how “the violence of the state simply reasserted itself anew under the ANC.”

read more and view trailer here

No comments: