Looking to the Past to Explain the South African Mining Murders

978-0-8223-4853-5_prToday in South Africa a judicial inquiry into the killings of 34 platinum miners by police at the Marikana mines begins. Retired judge Ian Farlam toured the site of the killings and has four months to uncover his final findings. The massacre of striking mine workers at Marikana is being
hailed as something like the infamous shootings at Sharpeville—a moment in
which perceptions of the nation are fundamentally transformed.  But if so, the underlying social realities go
much deeper. In Violence in a Time of Liberation, a historical ethnography of a
South African gold mine, Donald L. Donham has argued that black nationalism has
obscured the political transition of 1994.  Donham says, "Unions like the NUM are not just organizations from below; they are, in
some real sense, the creation of South African capitalists.  The pact between the ANC and international
capitalism has produced continuing and extreme inequality, and this pattern
forms the backdrop to events like Marikana." Violence in a Time of Liberation was reviewed in South Africa's Mail and Guardian last week. Reviewer Matthew Willhelm-Solomon writes that the book "offers a prescient narrative of mine violence. Based on a study of a mine called Cinderella, it provides a piercing and lucid exposition of the path to this violence in a post-1994 moment." He concludes, "Violence in a Time of Liberation offers an exemplary example of how historical ethnography can be used to study violence. It probes us to give time and labour to understand better what has happened, even if its meanings remain elusive. For violence, too, is a way of remembering our disappointed hope." The book contains photographs by Santu Mofokeng, some of which can be viewed on our Tumblr blog.

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