Marinovich on Marikana and journalism

Marinovich on Marikana and journalism

Posted: September 4, 2012 –
Mara Kardas-Nelson
  • The funeral of one of the miners who died at Marikana. Photo by Greg Marinovich.

    The funeral of one of the miners who died at Marikana. Photo by Greg Marinovich.

GroundUp interviewed investigative journalist Greg Marinovich, who has published shocking findings about the deaths of miners at Marikana.

On 16 August, television cameras captured the police shooting at an advancing group of miners. When the police stopped shooting, the cameras showed bodies of the injured and dead. Official figures put the number of dead at 34. It was widely assumed that all 34 were killed in the incident captured on television. Last week Marinovichpublished an article on the Daily Maverick website which presented evidence that miners were executed at a koppie away from the scene we saw on television.

The Daily Maverick’s introduction to Marinovich’s article stated, “Some of the miners killed in the 16 August massacre at Marikana appear to have been shot at close range or crushed by police vehicles. They were not caught in a fusillade of gunfire from police defending themselves, as the official account would have it.”

Marinovich did not mince his words. He wrote, “And on the deadly Thursday afternoon, [the miner’s] murderer could only have been a policeman. I say murderer because there is not a single report on an injured policeman from the day. I say murderer because there seems to have been no attempt to uphold our citizens’ right to life and fair recourse to justice.”

Marinovich published another article on Sunday, corroborating his findings.

We asked Marinovich pressing questions about the role of journalists, the evidence he has uncovered and his interpretation of events.

GroundUp: You have gone more in depth that any other journalist on this topic, spending weeks in the field. Would it help get closer to the truth if more journalists were thoroughly investigating this story? Do we need a team (or teams) of journalists to get to the bottom of this?

GM: I wouldn’t say that. I think other journalists have been spending more time there than I have. They’ve been there day in and day out. I haven’t spent that much time there. I’ve made about seven day trips there.

It’s about opening your eyes and looking at what people are telling you, looking at their stories.

GroundUp: Well you’ve certainly told a different story than a lot of other journalists.

GM: The Daily Maverick is a different kind of publication, it doesn’t have some kind of news agenda. I’m being allowed to tell a story and that’s what I’m doing. It’s just a different approach. It’s a quality approach. It’s not a feed-the-system approach.

GroundUp: What do you think other journalists could do to get the story out there, to get to the bottom of the story?

GM: The Mail & Guardian has an investigative unit. There are investigative units that could do this. There’s a preponderance within the media to rely on the spokespersons. If the spokesperson doesn’t say it, then it doesn’t count. And that’s pretty sad.

Speak to the people involved, not the spokespeople. Spokespeople are paid to lie. Why do we print what they say all the time?

GroundUp: How and why did you get involved investigating Marikana? Why did you decide to do it in such an in depth way? What was it that drew you to the story?

GM: I went out there before the massacre. I saw these things had been building a bit so I wanted to see what was happening. I phoned people in the platinum industry who might have contacts for me. I knew that most of the miners spoke isiXhosa and Sotho and I thought “let me find a back door for this place,” and I couldn’t. And I thought let me just go and try to find what happens when I try to get in the mine. I don’t want to spend time with the police watching things unfold. That’s not how I do this. And I got to the hill and there were journalists who were there. Everyone I spoke to was speaking about the wage hike. They didn’t speak about unrest between men or anything like that; that was a sideshow. I spent the next day putting my piece together and then I heard, “There’s been a shooting.” And I said, “With bullets? Rubber bullets?” And they said, “No with live ammunition.” “Live, really?” All the time I was busy writing. It was only later that I heard there were 18 dead and then after two or three days we heard that it was 34 dead. I saw the footage and it was so dramatic, and I said “but where did the other people die?” I didn’t think about where they died, I didn’t know about the koppie at that time, but you couldn’t say that 34 people died at the initial hill. You could see on news reports that 34 people didn’t die. And then when I looked at the crime scene it was massive.

So I went over to speak to miners. I wanted to speak to miners about structural violence in the mines, about conditions that people live and work under, and to find out more about what happened. I was curious about why the police shot in then first place, about the stuff we saw on TV. It was such an all-consuming thing to watch. It’s a mind-numbing experience.

I didn’t hear about anything about the small koppie from those I spoke to initially. Then there was a piece by Mandy De Waal in the Daily Maverick which quoted Peter Alexander and I read it and she didn’t go into it, but I thought I’ve got to go see this other site. I spoke to people who saw what happened on the outside. And then I went there and knew what to look for. The geography and the physical site–it was like wow! This wasn’t chaos. This wasn’t panic. This was something else that happened here. I tried to understand what the forensic markings meant, to get sources, to piece things together. We couldn’t nail it down, but to me it was very clear that murder happened there. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, and I’m willing to look like an idiot, but I don’t think I’m wrong. And we [the Daily Maverick] went with it.

There are a lot of nay sayers in the media who keep quoting the police. What do you think the police are going to say about it? It’s like we’ve learned nothing from being journalists under apartheid and that’s quite appalling to me.

GroundUp: So what do you say to these “nay sayers”, to those who say there isn’t enough hard evidence to prove what you’ve put forth? Can you tell me a bit more about the koppie and the ballistic and forensic evidence that you did see there which makes you assert that murder did in fact take place?

GM: The pools of blood. People did die there. That’s not in question. And it’s been confirmed that 14 people died after the first article, which I’ve said in the second article. The markings indicate major points of evidence, but things that are completely apparent, like a body lying out, they don’t mark. I didn’t know that at first but then the more I investigated I learned more and put things together. It’s a Pandora’s box. And obviously this has provoked a lot of response. And people inside the investigation have approached us with this information.

GroundUp: So when you say that you’re sure that 14 people have died at the koppie, did someone from the investigative team corroborate this?

GM: Yes, yes, I was lucky in that a source from the team confirmed this.

GroundUp: They confirmed the 14 bodies?

GM: Yes, they did it off the record, obviously.

There was a lot I had to learn about forensics, but now we know that N was a body, and G and H was a body, and X was a body … I reported on a man who died whose funeral I went to and there were no markings for whatever reason, because they were scuffed for whatever reason. But this is where these people died and they died at the hands of police. We need autopsies, forensics, plus people under oath telling a judge what happened. That’s not my job as a journalist. We’re there to start these questions, and see how far we need to go to push the authorities to do the right work.

GroundUp: When you wrote your first article, were you able to get comment from the police, or the forensics team, or anyone like that?

GM: How? People have come forward subsequent to the first article, but not before. I don’t know the names of policemen involved. But we were fair. We put it to the police and what more can we do? I’m just hoping that a couple of good honest police officers will talk, if not to me, then to somebody else.

GroundUp: Since your first article came out, have the SAPS or government responded?

GM: No. I’ve had no response since then. But you’ll see we [the Daily Maverick] just published that civil society has finally made a statement.

GroundUp: I’m sure you’ve seen Phillip de Wet’s piece in the Mail & Guardian over the weekend, which argues that considering several versions of what happened at Marikana, a person will believe “evidence” that is presented to them which fits what they’ve already read, their political views, etc. Essentially, he says, in the absence of conclusive evidence, “What happened at Marikana” is more about opinion, and less about fact. What do you say to de Wet’s claim?

GM: Right, right, all that stuff about, “The blood could have been from animal sacrifices a week before.” It’s bullshit. Of course there’s a real answer that we can come to. The forensics have got the bullets. They can match it. They’ve got the bodies. They’ve got all the evidence. We have videos of police killing miners at the front. Who do you think killed those people at the back there? Fairies?

GroundUp: Are you continuing your investigation? What can we expect from you going forward?

GM: There is more to come. I have more stuff, not on this specific topic, but on on related issues.

GroundUp: What would you say to other journalists working on this story? What do they need to do to have a more nuanced approach?

GM: Go take people’s stories.



About selcoolie

see: briefly: Born in Cape Town, South Africa; moved to Sweden in1969 and completed studies in 1983, then moved to Norway and then to S.A. in 1993 - back to Norway in 2005, and been there ever since! E-mail: Web Page: zcommunications/zspace/selcool In My Own Words: ¨ South African born ex-academic now retired, exiled and beyond redemption? Interests South African political economy and history; International Socialism and Marxist/Anarchist thought; anti-militarism and ecological questions My draft autobiography (ALL the "closet secrets" in the open! @ Aslo view:

One response to “Marinovich on Marikana and journalism”

  1. Dr Selim Gool says :

    The Marikana Massacre: A Premeditated Killing?

    SATURDAY, 25 AUGUST 2012

    Did Zuma Collude With the Mining Bosses?

    First published in Counterpunch


    “Two hundred thousand subterranean heroes who, by day and by night, for a mere pittance lay down their lives to the familiar `fall of rock` and who, at deep levels, ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 feet in the bowels of the earth, sacrifice their lungs to the rock dust which develops miners` phthisis and pneumonia.”-

    by Sol Plaatjie, first Secretary of the African National Congress, describing the lives of black miners in 1914, Grahamstown, South Africa.

    Last week’s massacre of 34 striking workers in Marikana, marks perhaps the lowest point in post-Apartheid South African history. Poor, black working class miners were shot down like animals, killed for profit.

    South Africa remains possibly the most unequal society in the world,- the black majority still faces a life of poverty and toil, if they are lucky enough to even find work; while the still largely white elite, enjoy a life more familiar to the suburbs of Atlanta or Los Angeles, than a country in which over the half the country’s citizens live below the poverty line, without access to basic services.

    As a wave of community protests which has arisen the townships of the country over the last few years intensifies-South Africa has been dubbed the protest capital of the world. In the last three years, there has been an average of 2.9 “gatherings” per day resulting in a 12,654 “gathering” incidents during 2010

    The violence needed to sustain the profit-margin in the South African mining industry has a long and sordid history — it was one of the principle reasons for the implementation of Apartheid, principally the mines of the Witswatersrand’s need for cheap migrant black labor, from the rural Eastern Cape and Kwazula Natel, the miners of Marikana principally came from the former Bantustan of Transkei, one of the underdeveloped and impoverished areas in the country.

    Violence was consistently used by both the Apartheid and colonial state against attempts to organize mineworkers, events such as the 1946 miners strike- which saw 70000 workers go on strike and murder of 12 miners, are an all-too common feature in South African history,

    Apartheid was built upon a two-tiered labor market in which white labor and white unions were actively nurtured by an interventionist state, while black laborers were disposed of their citizenship- in the form of the Bantustan system; Then their freedom of movement in the form of the pass laws and their ability to organize in the form of the banning of trade unions.

    Violence was used in many other key moments of SA labor history including the 1973 Durban Strike and countless battles between labor and the state which occurred in the 1980s which saw the formation of both the trade union federation COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) and NUM (the National Union of Mineworkers).

    The fact that a multinational corporation was at the center of the massacre shouldn’t surprise us either. Anglo-American, the largest corporation in South Africa, was one of the principle funders of the slaughter in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    But the culpability also extends to President Jacob Zuma and his cronies in NUM, figures such as the chairperson are directly implemented in the murder of the 34 workers. Both in the deployment of police at the mine and NUM’s attempt to break up the strike.

    The strike has continued into this week even after Lonmin issued an ultimatum to the workers, demanding that they return to their jobs or face being fired. At least 3000 strikers refused to comply and the ultimatum was later rescinded .

    Furthermore as of today, workers in the nearby Anglo American Platinum’s (Amplats) Thembelani mine and the Royal Bafokeng’s BRPM mine issued similar wage demands to management and downed their tools, giving management until Friday to respond. Lonmin’s manage failed to properly respond to the one essential demand of the striking workers, which was to meet with them.

    The following account clearly shows that the negotiating team-was not comprised of Lonmin management and was prevented from intervening by the police. as this report clearly shows.

    ”However later they agreed to a meeting provided the workers committed to three conditions: surrender their weapons, elect a small representative group to engage with management and disperse from the mountain …

    On leaving the briefing area to report back to the miners, the SACC team was told they could not go back to the camp as the place was now a security risk area under the police. Bishop Seoka said they saw two helicopters taking off and assumed that they were going to the mountain where the workers were camping.

    ‘As they left the area a call came through from the man we spoke to telling us that the police were killing them and we could hear the gun shots and screams of people’, says the Bishop. ‘The man covered with green blanket lying dead was the last person we spoke to who represented the mine workers.”

    Clearly, it was the police’s intent to break up the strike, it’s unclear how much political pressure they were under, but rather than letting the negotiating team do its work over 500 police surrounded the striking workers with armored cars and carrying assault rifles. A report from University of Johannesburg academic Peter Alexander suggests that the killing was possibly premeditated, as the police erected razor wire fences around the area in which the miners were located.

    Later tear gas and water cannons were used to disperse the crowd, forcing them to flee towards the police lines which greeted them with live ammunition.

    A City Press editorial asked 5 basic questions:

    * Why did police use live ammunition after an order was issued last year forbidding the use of even rubber bullets during public protests?* Why did Lonmin bosses refuse to negotiate with representatives of the Associated Mining and Construction Union (Amcu) after initially agreeing to?

    * Why didn’t the country’s intelligence services pick up
    on the brewing tension at the mine and take the appropriate action?*

    * Who supplied the newly made traditional weapons carried by thousands of
    angry miners?

    * Do platinum mines discriminate in favor of certain categories of workers when it comes to wage negotiations?

    So far none of the country’s political and civil society leaders have offered anything besides shameful banalities about a future inquiry and mild to enthusiastic support for the police and NUM.

    The silence of liberal NGOs and civil society organizations has been remarkable. The absence of real leadership on the issue, or strong showings of solidarity for the ongoing strike is a profound statement of the extent of the failure of post-Apartheid South African civil society, which has been largely monopolized by NGOS.

    Perhaps the most strident apologist for the massacre has been the South African Communist Party (SACP), a party comprised by its support for the neoliberal policies of the ANC and its own Stalinist history. Take this appalling bit from Domnic Tweedie of the Communist University: “This was no massacre, this was a battle.

    The police used their weapons in exactly the way they were supposed to. That’s what they have them for. The people they shot didn’t look like workers to me. We should be happy. The police were admirable”. Not even the bosses of Lonmin and the most reactionary strata of the South African press are so bloodthirsty. This type of disgraceful rhetoric has sadly become all too-common among the once-admirable SACP.

    The only exception to this rule was ex-ANC youth league president Julius Malema, who was expelled from the ANC earlier this year primarily because of his opposition to Jacob Zuma. Malema, a figure who is best described as Hugo Chavez meets Kanye West, accused Zuma of having “presided over the murder of our people “ and called for the nationalization of ‘the British owned’ mines to a crowd of thousands of cheering workers.

    He further accused Lonmin of having “ a high political connection [… which] is why our people were killed. They were killed to protect the shares of Cyril Ramaphosa,” Cyril Ramaphosa being an ex-communist, the ex-chairperson of NUM, and the current owner of the McDonald’s franchise in South African, as well as a Lonmin board member

    The mainstream press has found others to blame, however. The newspaper Business Day ran a shameful editorial which referred to Lonmin’s workers as being “[…driven by antiquated beliefs in witchcraft and sorcery, [… and believing] in the powers of ‘sangomas’ (witchdoctors) to make them invincible. Try reasoning with that.” Hence the perceived suicidal charge of police lines armed with R4 assault rifle , the suggested narrative of police defending themselves from primitive black miners clinging to superstitions which resulted in their deaths.

    The miners were not stupid enough, except in the racist imagination of white South Africans and the apologists of the massacre, to charge at policemen armed only with clubs. These sorts of images revert to classic colonial stereotypes.

    The blame is placed on hubris brought on by black magic, rather than the fact workers are being paid less than $500 a month. And obviously it couldn’t have been the tear gas and stun grenades used on the striking miners that made them run towards the police clutching spears, pangas and knobkerries. Some reports have even accused the police of firing from helicopters and later driving over the still-living bodies of those shot.

    On the other-hand the same Business Day editorial praised NUM” “ The NUM is the thoughtful, considered heart of the union movement here, one of the two rival unions involved in the dispute there. Cyril Ramaphosa and Kgalema Motlanthe, for instance, come out of it. As a union it is a “powerful voice of reason in an often loud and rash movement.” A more damning indictment of the true loyalties of NUM’s leadership is harder to find, than such praise in the country’s leading pro-business (and anti-union) daily.

    I accuse Zuma and NUM of colluding with the bosses at the Lambin mine as part of Zuma’s re-election campaign. The blood spilled on the dirt of Marikana is on the hands NUM and Zuma, not just Lonmin and the police. Zuma’s favored union and principle support base within COSATU is NUM and they could not afford to look weak in the build-up to Zuma’s re-election bid at the ANC’s Manugang conference in November, in which he faces a strong challenge from deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, who draws support from several of COSATU’s strongest union, most notably the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and their radical socialist leader Irwin Jim.

    If they were to have been shown up by a bunch of upstart, wildcat striking workers at one of the largest platinum mines in the world, in a country where platinum has replaced gold as the principle source of profit for extractive capital, it would have constituted a serious obstacle to Zuma’s re-election campaign.

    Furthermore the South African mining industry is in its last days, as gold reserves- historically the foundation of the South African economy- and platinum prices continue to drop. This is the real reason for the intensification of extractive mining practices, without workers being compensated for the added risk with any rise in wages.

    This precarious situation involving the primary industry in South Africa, has led to NUM working with the mining capital in order to protect the jobs of their members and attempting to insure that these companies secure the requisite profits needed to keep the mines open, leading them to view any threats to their position with these companies as a threat to their very existence.

    Zuma on the other-hand can’t afford to face any more job losses, in the build up to his re-election campaign, unemployment in the country is unofficially at over 40% and youth unemployment is over 60%.

    Forget the media propaganda about the union battle between NUM and AMCU. The majority of the strikers were not AMCU members, they were non-unionized workers or NUM members. AMCU was trying to recruit workers who were already involved in the strike rather than organizing it.

    The background to this, something that none of South Africa’s reflexively anti-union media explicated in their initial coverage, was a strike that occurred in February-March of this year at the Implants mine located close by. During this, wildcat strikers affiliated to AMCU, were subjected to similar violence as NUM attempted to protect their position as the dominant union in the mining sector and the favored union of the mining industry.

    The difference is the the wildcat strikers won over a 100% increase in wages from the bosses. The average return after deductions 4000 rand a month or 500 USD for some of the most degrading, dangerous and depressing work imaginable. This in a country with one of the highest costs of living for the poor striking workers at Implants managed to get the bosses to give them a 5500 rand (660 USD) increase. This opened up space for the AMCU to appeal to the miners of Lonmin.

    The real underlying scandal of the strike was well put by Chris Rodrigues from Rolling Stone:

    “But what still embitters them is their understanding that they would have to be reincarnated many times over to earn what the CEO of Lonmin did in one single year. Comparing their salary of R48 000 per annum with Ian Farmer’s (2011) earnings of R20, 358, 620 amounts to an, approximately, 424 years discrepancy.

    Taking a recent estimate of average male life expectancy in South Africa (49.81) and deducting just 18 childhood years from that would mean even if they worked every day of their adult life – they would have to do so over 13 unlucky lifetimes!”

    Such is the normalization of this capitalist metaphysics that the rival union has been universally rebuked for wanting to reduce it to a ratio of 1 year: 4.26 life spans. No wonder these strikers then entrusted the magic realism of a sangoma, for nothing today needs to be more urgently remedied than “reality”.

    As a worker told the Mail & Guardian’s website: “It’s better to die than to work for that shit … I am not going to stop striking. We are going to protest until we get what we want. They have said nothing to us. Police can try and kill us but we won’t move.”

    This massacre highlights the degeneration of the dream of post-apartheid South Africa into a nightmare of capital, patronage, corruption, and repression. Now is the time for displays of real solidarity with the miners and a full exposure of the truth behind this awful crime.

    Benjamin Fogel is a writer and activist in Grahamstown, South Africa.

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