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It will be necessary to describe the terms that will be used in this research paper for the purpose of contextualisation. The term racism must be understood in a neo-colonial context of South Africa. This meaning that certain patterns of colonialism are still present in modern day South Africa and that these can be seen through the inherent inequalities that exist in the education, health and economic sectors of the country.
According to Menell (2018: 55) the term neo-colonialism can refer to decolonised African states that remain dependent on the exportation of raw materials to feed growth in the first world. The term was first used in the 1960’s to explain the influence maintained by colonial powers in decolonised states. It refers to influence exercised by foreign powers over the policy and economic trajectory of less developed states through means other than direct political control. The government of South Africa is in a state of denial. This is because its many spokespersons refuse to acknowledge Marikana for what it truly is, a massacre. Instead they choose to adopt the word to describe it as a tragedy. What this does is to eliminate the human intervention, which came in form of the police force, from the incident. This is because admitting to such an intervention would open up the avenues of government being held accountable for its actions. Hence, why it chooses to call it a tragedy, because this absolves the government from any involvement and concurrently from any accountability or responsibility. “This denialism is reflected in the government’s most important Marikana-related initiative, the ‘Framework agreement for a Sustainable Mining Industry entered into by Organised Labour, Organised Business and Government’.
The Framework mentions intermittent tensions but makes no mention of Marikana or the post-Marikana strikes although these are the reasons for there being a Framework in the first place. According to Buitendag and Coetzer (2018) South Africa’s industrial relations history is tainted by incidents similar to what occurred in Marikana 2012. This history was moulded by colonial rule (from the Dutch and the British), the major discovery of precious minerals such as gold and diamonds and not forgetting, Apartheid. It is the very same history, which led to the dissemblance of apartheid, through socio-political, economic and international forces as well as organised labour. However, more than two decades into democracy, South Africa is still riddled by the symptoms of the past such as inequality, poverty, strikes and violence. The reasons for such violence are many and complicated, however, at the most basic level seem to stem from South Africa’s socio-political and socio-economic situation some 20 years after apartheid. The country’s high levels of poverty and inequality are well known and the government’s attempts at minimising these challenges since the dawn of democracy have been slow, misguided and diseased by corruption.
According to one interview it was stated that “The commission is a mechanism for preventing the prosecution of police officers and exposing the state”. This is because there was clearly a mass murder committed and someone would have to be held accountable for what took place. If one was to divert the whole incident into the commission-which is what happened-then certain inquires would not take place and as such the police inquiry stopped and was never revisited. As the result of such a stoppage there was no one to investigate for the murder and thus no one could be held accountable for the loss of the miners’ lives at Marikana. So, this is to say that the purpose of a commission is expose what really happened at Marikana, whereas the truth was actually contrary to that and it was a complete whitewash. What differentiates this massacre from those that took place before it in South Africa was the contestation from the very beginning inside the commission on the narrative. As previously stated these commissions are set up to deflect blame away from the government when the government has been evidently found out to be using excessive force against its people.
According to Benya (2018) for women, the strikes appear to be about more than just material gains but also about regaining the dignity of their partners’ as well as their own dignity. The fact that mine workers continuously suffer humiliation through employers’ refusal to pay them a ‘living wage’ actually seems to give them strength. For many community members and women, Marikana is a struggle for a better and dignified life, which can only be attained through workers earning a living wage, being able to feed and educate their children as well as put a decent roof over their heads. The women feel as if they have nothing more to lose under the current circumstances, this because they are already unable to make ends meet and life is drained out them through their living and working conditions. “A month after the massacre, women organised their own march demanding that the police and army leave their community and stop harassing them and their children. When most men were not sleeping in their homes after the massacre because of the brutal harassment by police, women say it was they who kept families together, and who could gather in the community even after the government called for a state of emergency”. The women’s involvement in Marikana echoed the patterns of apartheid because even now, 20 years after democracy, black women are dependent on black men as the breadwinners of the household and black men are dependent on the white employment. Another remnant of apartheid is the lack of respect for black lives. Although now perpetrated by a black run state, the patterns of oppression and violence still lurk beneath the surface of the new democracy. This is also true in the realm of media, as it is the main mechanism used to perpetuate deliberative negative images of black people.
According to Duncan (2013) of all the 153 newspaper articles she analysed, only one showed any attempt by a journalist to obtain an account of the version of events from the workers’ perspective. There is very little evidence of journalists having asked the miners simple questions such as ‘what happened?’. This could be because the miners are people who live on the fringes of society and as such are not awarded the same freedom of speech as the owners of the mines or government officials are awarded. Journalists, instead, overwhelmingly depended on official sources of information and business perspectives for information and analysis. This means that journalists were reluctant to get the official story from the miners who were present at Marikana and rather from huge businesses which were pushing a different narrative. It can be observed from this conduct that the media was more interested in profit than the truth. The miners had nothing else to offer but their lived experiences whereas the businesses had many reasons to spread false narratives about Marikana as a means of avoiding scrutiny and keeping a good public image. A related theme in the media was of the miners’ demands placing the company’s market value in jeopardy. The effect of this was to show that the country is more concerned about the market value of companies, which are juristic persons, as opposed to the dignity of its poorest citizens, who are actually people.
The media would rather protect the companies’ commercial interests as opposed to protecting the livelihood of disadvantaged South Africans. This framing of the struggle was evidently and unapologetically biased towards the business case, further delegitimising the legitimate attempt of the miners to secure a living wage, given that the formal bargaining structures had failed them. This undignified treatment of the miners’ experiences by media is reminiscent of the apartheid era’s treatment towards similar struggles and alludes to a system of neo-colonialism because some aspects of colonialism still exist today in South Africa.
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