British TV news airs footage refuting South African police claims about murdered Marikana miners. Where was the South African media?

Five months after the Marikana Massacre in South Africa, footage of police action at the ‘killing koppie‘ [“hill”] has finally reached the public. This footage somewhat predictably wasn’t brought to our attention by the local media, who have long since moved on to other things since the Marikana story stopped selling. Rather, it was Channel 4 in the United Kingdom who brought this footage to light. Why then did it take so long for the footage to reach us and why did it reach us in such a manner? Was it deliberately suppressed or is there a police whistleblower? One can reasonably speculate that the police were ordered to delete the evidence collected on their mobile phones in the aftermath of the massacre, but surely more footage has survived the culling of a cover-up.

Four months after the story of the killing koppie was brought into the mainstream media (working off the research of a group of University of Johannesburg sociologists) by Greg Marinovich and South African web-based publication Daily Maverick, cellphone footage taken by police at the scene of the massacre appears to provide further evidence to support Marinovitch’s claims of ‘execution style killings’.

The highly disturbing footage shows police moving around, taking potshots, joking about killings and even boasting about shooting one “motherfucker” ten times, despite the easily ignored plea of one officer to not shoot the “bastard”. It shows numerous corpses around the area with police idly watching over, while the wounded writhe in agony.

It gives us a first person perspective of the shooter with the cellphone showing us the gun of the person filming it, as if it was a video game or a action movie. It blurs the line between the hyper-reality of a video game and the grotesque of a snuff film.

One scene shows two workers attempting to wriggle away from the police, a hopeless attempt as the police are standing around them, looking somewhat amused at their desperation. The police’s tone, although barely audible, is gung-ho, exhilarated at the possibility of finally unleashing their pent-up rage at the bastards.

It seems that there is more footage to come that escaped what can only be described as one of the most poorly executed cover-ups in law enforcement history. It even surpasses the old death by soap stories of our previous political regime in stupidity. All the facts were there. The problem was nobody really bothered to look beyond press statements and the original television footage. Nobody initally bothered to speak to the miners except for a few radicals and, easily ignored by virtue of their divergence from the range of acceptable opinion.

The myth of Marikana as self-defense should by now be conclusively consigned to the dung heap of historical perjury. Instead Police chief Riah Phiyega’s comments are highly revealing, to say the least: “All we did was our job, and to do it in the manner we were trained.” And to further illustrate how their police accomplished their job so well: “Whatever happened represents the best of responsible policing. You did what you did because you were being responsible. You were making sure that you continue to live your oath.”

Surely this counts as an official endorsement of the massacre?

Perhaps the most tragic fact of Marikana was not the killing, but the muted response of the South African public in the aftermath of the killings. No mass demonstrations, no real collective outrage, mainly just passive acceptance and in some cases support for state violence. Not that any of that collective apathy stopped the mass strike wave which took hold across the platinum belt.

It remains to be seen if such visceral evidence of the atrocities which took place that day will spark a more heated reaction, but so far the media response at least is quite tame, treating it still as yesterday’s news not worthy of a renewed focus on the events of that day.

Maybe, just maybe, it might inspire a collective critical retrospective on what went wrong in the coverage of the massacre and a future boycott of press statement journalism. However, there is probably a better chance of  retreating into the fortress of objectivity.

In the meanwhile, the story of Marikana continues. Most workers at Lonmin’s platinum mines apparently have not received their promised 22% raise and there are numerous reports of disappearances and continued intimidation with many workers having simply disappeared and remaining unaccounted for. As the recent news of the mass retrenchments at Amplats show us, the mineworkers struggle is far from over.

Comments

comments

5 Comments
  1. am shocked about the details of your description but not surprized about the tendency because actually at that day of the massacre I have seen two versions in the news. the BBC was shot from an angle behind the police and edited in a way supporting the “official” version but Aljazeera’s footage was shot more from a side angle and there you could clearly see how the crowd of workers were just driven together by the armoured vehicle before the police started shooting. It then clearly looked in that one specific shot (only some seconds long) like a massexecution. If you have unbiased eyes and enough energy to research on the internet for different resources and compare the footage it is possible to find a glimbse of truth. Who believes that mainstream media like BBC or CNN (and also Aljazeera) is serving real journalistic values? long time no more….

  2. No I have not seen this footage but I have seen enough footage to understand that when facing a mob like that, an angry gathering, chanting, throwing spears into the air, armed with guns and “knob kerries” and firing shots, fearlessly coming towards you in an aggressive manner, ignoring instructions from the law and not to mention killing security forces at the mine itself…how would you react as an officer of the law in that situation?

    The fact remains that this whole episode got out of control and the leaders of the unions, management and even the government and police should admit what went wrong and move on with better measures in place to prevent this from happening again in the future…

    This was not just a massacre of innocents, that mob was not innocent. They already had death on their hands. These people knew what they were doing and would have killed and maimed innocent men and woman of the law as well if they got close enough. This strike got out of control because of aggression and uneducated stupidity of the mine unions and management…and also the trigger happy cops which I absolutely do not agree with. They must be brought to justice if the proof of abuse of police power is clearly shown….

    This story is very much written standing up for the mob and I do not agree with this as clearly there is more than one side to this story. When there is death, both sides are to blame. In this case the law AND the miners.

    Yes this story has been covered up, it’s a mess. I agree, people should take responsibility and those responsible must be punished but remember there is a bigger story here and outsiders like the media and you and me should not take sides but instead ask the right questions so the right answers are heard…don’t forget other innocent people were killed during those strikes…nobody had to die…Both sides are to blame!

    A proud South African

    1. but the significance of this cellphone footage is how it further undermines the idea that innocent police defended themselves against a murderous mob that day.

      the footage in Channel 4’s new report comes from the small koppie, where all evidence is the police were hunting isolated, fleeing men. more miners were killed here, picked off by excited police out of sight of journalists, than at the other scene.

      the police have a difficult job. they got it horribly wrong at Marikana, and are still trying to cover that up. we can’t “move on” from that.

      not a proud south african

  3. It is disgusting to see such bad things happening in our country. We thought that after 1994 we were going to live a better life, but we are still in Gomora and Sodoma, nothing is defferent from the time of apartheid. I, for one, believe that our Government is not responsible enough for poor people in this country. The only thing they know is to rich themselves! Before freedom, black peaple used to be killed by the whites, but now our police are killing people like flies,I think something must be done!!!

  4. Rod Leviton, I bet you were able to justify the apartheid police and hit-squads as well. What you need to understand, Mr Leviton, is that nothing much has changed in this beautiful country of ours. The poor are poorer, the rich whites are richer and the new ANC elite are even richer. Please could you justify to the world the enormous gap in earnings between a labourer earning in the region of R4k a month and a CEO earning in excess of R1m a month. You may not have noticed it yet, as you appear to be holed-up in your ivory tower, but there is a world-wide revolution on the brew towards a more equitable system (away from the unfair system of capitalisism) for all and if you don’t come to the party this equitable system will be gotten through violence as the poor are tired of being nice and asking. The poor do not mind being poor but they do mind being dispossesed and exploited. Oh, by the way, Mr Leviton, I am a white male (58) born and bred in South Africa, and no, I did not do my military training, I chose 2 years in prison instead, because I refused to support an unjust system, and no, I’m not a commie or a member of any political party, just a concerned human being that wants the best for all,and by all I mean the planet and all that grow and live on it!
    Extremely embarrased South African!

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