The marikana massacre: Insurgency and counter-insurgency in South Africa

28 Jul 2016

The Lonmin-owned platinum mine, sixty-two miles northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa had been at the center of a violent pay dispute for over a year, starting in May 2011, when the company sacked nine thousand workers after what it described as ?unprotected industrial action.? On August 16, 2012, a contingent of the police five hundred strong surrounded a koppie (hillock) outside the informal settlement of Nkaneng to quell a wildcat strike. During the preceding days, several thousand workers on the koppie had been involved in violent disturbances that had resulted in ten deaths (six workers who did not heed the call to strike, two policemen, and two security guards). On August 16, the striking workers, daubed with traditional medicine believed to make them invincible, were chanting and armed with knobkieries (short clubs with a knobbed end), pangas (broad, heavy knives), sticks, and iron rods. The strike was initiated mainly by the rock drillers who drive heavy pneumatic drills deep into the quartzite rock that encases the platinum. Paid $260 a month, they were demanding $833 per month, equivalent to what Lonmin pays rock drillers in the company?s Australian mine. The strikers pelted the police with stones and refused to disperse. The police opened fire with R5 automatic rifles and killed thirty-four miners; seventy-eight were wounded, and 259 were arrested.