The Marikana Massacre is a chilling event in South Africa’s history that occurred from the 10th of August to the 20th of September in 2012.
It was the most lethal use of force against South African civilians by the South African security forces since 1960.
The shootings and death toll has been compared by the South African media to the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960.
The Sharpeville massacre occurred on the 21th of March 1960. It took place at the Sharpeville’s police station.
A crowd of five thousand to seven thousand black protestors headed down to the police station to protest against the pass laws.
The pass laws in South Africa were a type of passport system that was designed to marginalize the movement of the black population. This included them carrying pass books whenever they exited their designated areas or homelands.
After a day of peaceful protests outside the Sharpeville police station, the South African police then opened fire on the crowd. Sixty nine people lost their lives that day.
Today, the 21st of March is celebrated annuals as a public holiday to honor the victims of the massacre.
Much of the controversy surrounding the Marikana Massacre was not only the fact that majority of the victims were nowhere near the police lines when they were shot but that they were also shot in the back.
The massacre began as a strike by workers at a mine owned by Lonmin in the Marikana area.
The incident gained international following as a result of the aggravated violent attacks by both South African Police Service and the Lonmin security.
47 deaths were recorded at the end of the ordeal; an additional 78 workers were also injured. Of the deaths, 41 were of the striking mine workers.
Two security guards and two police officers were also killed.
On the 18th of September, the conflict had reached a resolution with the mine workers accepting a 22% pay increase and a one-off payment of 2,000 rand.
The Marikana Mine strike inspired several mine strikes across the country, making 2012 the most protest filled year in South Africa since the collapse of apartheid.
The South African president was in Mozambique during the August 16 shootings. President Zuma was said to have expressed shock and dismay at the violence.
He urged the trade unions and the government to work together to put the unfortunate event to rest before it spiraled even further out of control.
The day after the incident, he traveled to the location of the Marikana shooting and ordered a formal inquiry into the matter.
Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula, the Defense Minister, became the first official from the South African government to apologize to the miners, stating, “…as a representative of the government, I apologise…I am begging, I beg and I apologise, may you find forgiveness in your hearts.”
Former leader of the African National Congress’s youth wing, Julius Malema – who had been suspended from the ANC, condemned the actions of the police.
He even called for the resignation of the president, saying, “A responsible president says to the police you must keep order, but please act with restraint. He says to them use maximum force. He has presided over the killing of our people, and therefore he must step down…How can he call on people to mourn those he has killed? He must step down.”
The reactions from the South African media were as to be expected.
They showed graphic photos and videos of the shooting. They also used words like ‘Bloodbath’ and ‘killing field’ when referring to the incident.
Some stating that this kind of cruelty had only been seen once before in South Africa – during apartheid.
Being one of the most discussed issues of 2012, many articles and books on the Marikana massacre have been written.
For further reading, look up:
• Peter Alexander and others: Marikana. A View from the Mountain and a Case to Answer, Jacana Media, Johannesburg, South Africa 2012.
• Greg Marinovich: “Murder at Small Koppie”, Penguin, South Africa, 2015.
• Marikana: What really happened? We may never know, by Mandy de Waal, Daily Maverick, 2012
• Marikana, one year later: the hell above and below ground, by Greg Marinovich, Daily Maverick, 2013
• Marikana: One year after the Massacre by Niren Tolsi, Mail & Guardian, 2013