But the killings outside of the Marikana mine of platinum
company Lonmin happened on August 16, 2012, almost two decades
after Nelson Mandela's "Rainbow Nation" exchanged white-minority
rule for multi-racial democracy.
A new documentary "Miners Shot Down", by South African filmmaker
Rehad Desai, explores the events leading up to what has been
dubbed "the Marikana Massacre".
The film has a special resonance at the moment because most of
the country's platinum miners have been on strike for a "living
wage" of 12,500 rand ($1,200) a month for the past 15 weeks and
a general election will be held on Wednesday.
"The key thing here really is that 12,500 was the formal
demand," Desai told Reuters at a Johannesburg screening last
Thursday, which was the Workers' Day public holiday in South
"But what really stuck in the throat of these mine workers was
(having) their dignity stripped off them because their bosses
weren’t prepared to talk to them as human beings.
"I think we need to know and remember, now and for the years to
come and for our children, what happened at Marikana."
The film draws on interviews with survivors and uses footage
including a video recording of the shootings by Reuters
cameraman Dinky Mkhize.
Desai's documentary begins a week before the killings, after an
illegal strike erupted at Lonmin's operations, generating a
spiral of violence.
South Africa's platinum belt was in the grip of a vicious and
still unfinished turf war between the Association of Mineworkers
and Construction Union (AMCU) and the once unrivalled National
Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
The film shows workers trying to speak to mine managers and
being rebuffed as the violence, which included the murder of
police officers and security guards, escalates.
[to top of second column]
"The life of a black person is so cheap in South Africa, they will
kill us," AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa, who is leading the
current mining strike, says in archival footage recorded hours
before the slayings.
While relative pay and conditions have improved since the end of
apartheid, many black miners still feel they have not benefited
fairly from the nation's mineral wealth for the hard and often
dangerous work they do underground.
Lonmin's chief executive Ben Magara apologised to the families of
the slain Marikana miners last year at an event marking its first
Desai said his sense that justice has not been done for the miners,
as a commission of inquiry into the incident drags on, was his
motivation for making the 80-minute film.
"I couldn't ignore it, it was much too big, much too dramatic and
upsetting for me," he said.
"I had to do something for these miners. I just felt that I had to
give them a voice. If authority strikes in such a brutal fashion,
artists have to pick a side and indicate which side they're on," he
The film has had local and international screenings already,
including at the Paris Human Rights International Film Festival and
the One World Film Festival in Prague.
Desai's other films have included "Born into Struggle", which looked
at the toll that his father's anti-apartheid activism in exile from
South Africa took on the family.
(Editing by Ed Stoddard, Michael Roddy and Ruth Pitchford)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.