New documentary explores South Africa mine shootings

Tue May 6, 2014 10:23am EDT
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By Nomatter Ndebele

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - It was like a scene from the darkest days of apartheid: South African police opening fire with live ammunition, killing 34 striking black miners demanding a "living wage" from an international firm rich in capital.

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 Africa.

"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.   Continued...