by BAR editor and columnist Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
The tombstones of apartheid were laid at Sharpeville in 1960 and Soweto, 1976. History will record that the death knell for the African National Congress regime was sounded at Marikana, in 2012, where ANC honcho and mine stockholder Cyril Ramaphosa was in regular contact with the killers of striking miners. Rehad Desai’s film “has blown the whistle on the illicit, deadly relationship between multinational mining concerns and the Zuma government.”
Miners Shot Down!: “The Marikana Massacre Represents the Beginning of the End of the ANC”
by BAR editor and columnist Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
“The massacre signaled that corporations were still in charge despite Black faces in government.”
The Marikana Massacre was a landmark event in the history of post-apartheid South Africa. It represented the most brutal attack since the end of apartheid in 1994. The savagery of the murders removed any pretentions that a neo-colonial South Africa was a structural deviation from its white supremacist past. The massacre was intended to intimidate South African mine workers, the workers who produce the wealth for the nation. The massacre signaled that corporations were still in charge despite Black faces in government and that these corporations would not suffer any challenge to their power. If there was any question about the loyalty of the “new” South African government (corporate vs. South African people) the Marikana Massare was the answer.
In sum, on August 16, 2012, South African police fired on a group of Lonmin Company Platinum mineworkers, striking for an increase in wages. The mining company and police refused to bargain with the mineworkers in good faith and pursued an escalating violent strategy. The police opened fire, wounding 112 and killing 34 protesters. Marikana is located 80 miles north of Johannesburg.
The ANC attempted to diminish the state-sponsored murders of the Marikana miners, but South African filmmaker/Director Rehad Desai has thwarted these plans. His film, Miners Shot Down has blown the whistle on the illicit, deadly relationship between multinational mining concerns and the Zuma government. The commission established to investigate this crime against humanity punted on the issue of holding police accountable and pronounced that “many should share in the blame.”
“The massacre was intended to intimidate South African mine workers, the workers who produce the wealth for the nation.”
Rehad is a producer/director of Uhuru Productions, where he is the CEO. Following his return from exile in the UK, Rehad worked as a trade union organizer; a health and safety/media officer for a chemical workers union and a Director of an HIV prevention NGO. In 1997, he completed his Master’s Degree in Social History at the University of the Witwatersrand. Rehad then entered the TV and film industry as a current affairs journalist and soon moved his focus to historical and socio-political documentary film.
Rehad is on the National Executive of the Democratic Left Front, a socialist organization that believes socialism can only be brought about through the self-emancipation of the working class. He is also the Chairperson of SOS Support Public Broadcasting and sits on the National Steering Committee of the United Against Corruption Coalition.
He has produced and directed over 20 documentaries that have received critical acclaim. This two-part interview focuses on Rehad’s documentary: Miners Shot Dead.
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: Today we will talk about the Marikana Massacre. You have been at the forefront of exposing the conditions that led to the Massacre:
Rahad Desai: Despite the propaganda that followed the beginning of that strike it was simply a group of workers, mainly from the majority union, the National Union of Mine Workers (NUM) who were seeking a wage increase. Many of their rock drillers had no assistants while across the Platinum sector all rock drillers have assistants. The negotiations on this point continued for a couple of months with the company before the strike began. When the workers decided to expand their demands, such as pay equity; cash increase, rather than a percentage increase; and a minimum wage, the Lonmin Company decided at that point that the negotiations were over. The mineworkers turned to the majority union, National Union of Mine Workers (NUMSA), for assistance.
But, instead of assisting the mine workers, union officials claimed that they felt under threat and that the office was under attack.
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: Two workers were shot at the first meeting?
Rahad Desai: Yes, two workers were shot as they approached the offices of their local union. This was the first meeting. They were shot by the union branch leadership. They attempted to return to the stadium where other mineworkers were congregating and they were locked out by mine management who ordered their security staff to shoot these workers. Thankfully, the security officers mainly shot over their heads. At that point, the mineworkers had no choice but to retreat to a small Kopje – a mountain.
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: The mine workers had retreated to a small Kopje and the mine management was now working in concert with the union; what happened the following day?
Rahad Desai: The following day, August 12th, 2,000 to 3,000 miners attempted to walk back to the union offices to convince other miners not to work. And, they were fired upon by security guards. But it was only a handful of security guards who were sent out to contain this massive group of workers. The mineworkers advanced on the security guards and in the process two security guards were killed, in fact quite brutally. The following day, generally quiet but there was a steady build-up of police at the mine. The date, August 13th presents another turning point in this story. On this day, 200 miners left the Kopje and proceeded to shops where people were working. When they arrived, they were met by mine security who told them that there were lots of police around and to be safe they should cross the railroad tracks to get back to the Kopje. Believing these security guards, the miners attempted to skirt the police only to be confronted by police on the railroad tracks. The mineworkers attempted to negotiate with police arguing that they (the police) should not interfere since the dispute involved mine management and mine workers. The police demanded that they give up their arms. The miners explained that they were armed because they were being fired upon by their union, mine security and by the police. Therefore, they were unwilling to give up their arms (machetes, fighting sticks, pangas and assegais etc.)
“Two were shot execution style by snipers while fleeing.”
Through negotiations with the mineworkers, the police agreed to escort the miners back to the Kopje in exchange for the workers agreeing to surrender their arms. An official of the Lonmin mine watching the negotiations play out between the police and mine workers instructed the police to force the workers to “stand down” and surrender their arms before reaching the Kopje. The mineworkers refused and started to march to the Kopje. 800 meters down the road, they were met by police who fired sting grenades and tear gas. Chaos broke out. In the process, 3 mineworkers were killed. Two were shot execution style by snipers while fleeing.
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: How did the miner’s view this situation?
Rehad Desai: From a mine strikers point of view, 5 members of their group had been killed that day. The following day, a NUM union official made his way up to the Kopje. He was discovered and killed. The NUM and its officers were now seen as traitors.
By the end of August 14th, the death toll, including security guards and strikers, totaled 10. Instead of attempting to quell this situation through dialogue, the leading ANC and Lonmin share-holder, Cyril Ramaphosa, a stakeholder in the Lonmin Mining Company (and considered the author of the new South African constitution, one of the great heroes of the anti-apartheid movement), continued to press for more police, calling the striker’s action criminal rather than a labor dispute. He argued that force (rather than dialogue) was needed to meet the level of violence. There are a string of e-mails and phone messages that confirm that Ramaphosa was in regular contact with Lonmin mine management, police, politicians and NUM to attempt to break the strike.
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: When was the decision made by the Lonmin Mining company, the ANC and Police to escalate this crisis to military confrontation?
Rehad Desai: On August 15th, there was a meeting in Cape Town of cabinet ministers. That evening, there was also a meeting of the National Police Management Force. The National Police Management Force is the highest decision making group inside the South African police force. They decided to conduct an operation that involved 4,000 rounds of live ammunition, extra ambulances, extra police and, most shockingly, four mortuary bags – each of which can contain eight bodies. This arrived on the morning of the Marikana Masacre.
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: If I could ask you to look into the future what will the August 16th Marikana Massacre represent in South African history?
Rehad Desai: When we look back on August 16th, the day of the Marikana Massacre we will contemplate other water-shed moments in South African history, such as, Soweto and Sharpeville that radicalized an entire generation and led to the fall of apartheid. However, the Marikana Massacre will represent the beginning of the end of the African National Congress.
Part II of this interview will explore the tragic events of August 16, 2012 at the Lonmin Platinum Mine at Marikana.
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Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo is the author of the Pulitzer Prize nominated: No FEAR: A Whistleblowers Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA. She worked at the EPA for 18 years and blew the whistle on a US multinational corporation that endangered South African vanadium mine workers. Marsha's successful lawsuit led to the introduction and passage of the first civil rights and whistleblower law of the 21st century: the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR Act). She is Director of Transparency and Accountability for the Green Shadow Cabinet, serves on the Advisory Board of ExposeFacts.com and coordinates the Hands Up Coalition, DC.