The Marikana Massacre: The government that pulled the trigger and the workers who survived it

Revivifying what are only recent memories of massacres by the state during the apartheid era, the Marikana massacre occurred on 16th August 2012, when policemen shot down 112 striking mineworkers, killing 34. Resistance by the ANC and the press to label the incident a massacre (‘Marikana shootings’ was the preferred terminology) at once exposed the easy analogy between Marikana and previous mass shootings at Sharpeville or Soweto, the fraughtness of South Africa’s difficult reckoning with its past, and how violence and the covering up of violence remains an intrinsic part of South Africa’s political structures and institutions.

Luke Sinwell, co-author of The Spirit of Marikana  a fascinating recent history of post-Apartheid South Africa, emphasising the crucial role of workers in changing history – has written here about the fight for justice by the workers that survived the massacre and the prosecution of 72 police for their role in the events.



The recent decision taken by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) to prosecute 72 police for their role in the events related to South Africa’s Marikana massacre is welcome, but it may obscure the truth that the African National Congress (ANC) government pulled the trigger. The Sprit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Trade Unionism tells the story of the agency of those workers who survived it.

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Reading List: Left Wing African Movements

We have compiled a list of books that explore Left Wing Social Movements from the African continent or by African people. We chronicle the diverse labour movements, social thoughts and political economies of Botswana, South Africa, Nigeria and Zanzibar and follow the fight for political freedoms across the rest of the world.

The Unchosen: The Lives of Israel’s New Others by Mya Guarnieri Jaradat

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Drawing on a decade of courageous and pioneering reporting, Mya Guarnieri Jaradat brings us an unprecedented and compelling look at the lives of asylum seekers and migrant workers in Israel, who hail mainly from Africa and Asia.

From illegal kindergartens to anti-immigrant rallies, from detention centres to workers’ living quarters, from family homes to the high court, The Unchosen sheds light on one of the most little-known but increasingly significant aspects of Israeli society. We hear of Sudanese hunger strikers in Israeli detention centres, Eritrean refugees staging non-violent protests calling for Israel to process asylum applications and agitations opposing poor medical care and educational provisions. By highlighting Israel’s harsh and worsening treatment of African migrants, The Unchosen presents a fresh angle on the Israel-Palestine conflict, calling into question the state’s perennial justification for mistreatment of Palestinians: ‘national security’.

Related titles:

Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide by Ben White

Popular Protest in Palestine: The Uncertain Future of Unarmed Resistance by Marwan Darweish and Andrew Rigby

Activestills: Photography as Protest in Palestine/Israel by the Activestills Collective


The Spirit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Trade Unionism in South Africa by Luke Sinwell and Siphiwe MbathaSinwell SOM cropped

On the 16th August 2012 on a platinum mine in Marikana, the South African Police Service opened fire on thirty-four protesting black mine workers. This would come to be known as the Marikana massacre; one of the most lethal uses of force by South African security services since the apartheid era.

Through oral testimonies and exhaustive fieldwork, Sinwell and Mbatha create a gripping account of the incidents that followed. What began as a simple dispute over pay became an emblem of working class resistance in South Africa. The Spirit of Marikana is a testament to the mine workers’ heroic resistance against the cronyism of mine bosses, the government authorities and the crooked union establishment. Continue reading

Can you be an Israeli citizen and what does that mean anyway? – Alice Rothchild in Palestine and Israel, part 16

June 21, 2014 Citizenship

I know Jonathan Cook explained this last year, but the topic is so contorted and bizarre I am going to give it another try and forgive me if it is not crystal clear.  We are sitting in the charming Al Mutran Guest House surrounded by glass cases of embroidery and pottery in what was once a Palestinian home, patios and garden on the second floor, serene views, puffy clouds.  Looks can be deceiving.  I notice that a hulky four wheel drive vehicle has actually driven up the stone stairs to park in front of the guest house at a 45 degree angle, either out of desperation for a parking space or perhaps because Nazareth is a place of angels and miracles and unimaginable possibility.

So one of the first dilemmas facing the new State of Israel, (after giving all the Jews in the world the Law of Return which entitles them to Israeli citizenship and theoretically a safe place from anti-Semitism) is how do you know if a non-Jewish Arab type person is a present absentee/refugee from 1948 or an “infiltrator” who has snuck back in to harvest olives, retrieve belongings, take revenge, etc etc. The “kosher” Palestinians were giving residency and in 1952, official citizenship, but since Ben Gurion and his friends are building a Jewish state here, the other goal is to limit the number of Palestinian citizens in any way possible.

So here, according to Jonathan, are some of the more quirky facts: Continue reading

Video Trailer: Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide (New Edition)

We were very excited to see copies of the new edition of Ben White’s Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide (Pluto, 2014) arrive at the Pluto office this morning. Not only do they look fantastic, but they’re filled with significant new material, bringing the now 5-years-old first edition bang up to date.

To find out a bit more about the book, check out the video below, in which Ben talks about the new content, the political context of the Palestinian struggle in 2014, and why the label of ‘apartheid’ is more appropriate than ever.

You can pre-order it now for just £10.50 (that’s 10% off, with free UK P&P) from the Pluto website. Simply click on the cover image below.

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A Flawed Freedom: John S. Saul on Nelson Mandela

Last week Pluto authors Marcelle Dawson and Patrick Bond offered their reflections on the leadership and legacy of Nelson Mandela. This week we asked John S. Saul, author of A Flawed Freedom: Rethinking Southern African Liberation (Pluto, 2014) for his comments on Mandela’s leadership and legacy. We’ve produced John’s comments in full below.

A Flawed Freedom will be published by Pluto in March next year. For More information about the book, or to preorder your copy online, go to our website or click on the cover image below.

John S. Saul

Has the time come when it might be possible to move past the well-deserved praise-song phase of the marking of Nelson Mandela’s death in order to strike a more careful balance-sheet on the meaning for present-day South Africa of his storied career?

Saul T02841Of course, it remains extremely difficult to speak dispassionately on such matters this close to his impressive funeral. Nor can there be any real debate about the quality of the man or as to the crucial importance of the role he played, especially in his early years of defiance and in his long, unbending period in prison. He was, in fact, a leader of real substance, dignity and power, a giant among other politicians of his time – coming, as much as anyone in South Africa, to exemplify uncompromisingly the strength of the popularly-held conviction that racist rule, with all its enormities, could not be allowed to stand.

And yet his latter-day role – as he moved from prison into the Presidency of an ostensibly “new” South Africa – was a much more debatable one. True, in his first moments of freedom in 1990, at the very moment that he emerged from captivity, he spoke, in a kind of radical short-hand, of the need for multiple “nationalizations” and also, more generally, of the necessary injection of genuine social purpose into a reclaiming of the realms of society and economy on behalf of the people of South Africa.

Nonetheless, Mandela – never a man of the socio-economic left – soon found his commitment to a radical socio-economic policy shift to be fading fast. Moreover, in this his position was merely coming into line with that of most of the ANC’s upper echelon as they returned from exile.

After all the struggle against apartheid had been waged much more threateningly by mass popular organizations on the shop floor and in the townships than it had by any military resistance mounted from exile by the ANC. And, increasingly, what was most feared by the South African business and state establishments was the possibility of a popularly–based “revolutionary force” becoming ever more deeply radicalized by a sustained confrontation with the combined oppressions of both apartheid and of international capitalism.

Indeed, it was just such a possible mass upheaval that business guru Zac de Beer had once warned defenders of capital’s stake in South Africa to guard against: the danger that “the baby of free enterprise” could be “thrown out with the bathwater of apartheid”! Soon such leaders as Malcolm Fraser of Australia and Brian Mulroney of Canada also saw that apartheid itself – long a profitable partner of capital, with racial oppression helping to keep labour cheap – had became dispensable. Better now simply to decapitate any “dangerous” popular movements in order to safeguard the existing pattern of class rule and socio-economic power.

And here they found willing listeners in those ANC notables who had actually spent their own 1980s informally negotiating with both the South African state and with South African national and global capital – while promising the latter a very tame transition indeed. It was with this vision that Mandela was now firmly in agreement, ready to accept a “freedom” firmly founded on the embrace of a neo-liberal version of South Africa, one in line with global capitalism’s own priorities.

As a result it is not surprising how very little change in the impoverished substance of their lives has actually been delivered by the ANC to the vast mass of South Africans, this providing a sad anti-climax to the once proud anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. True, for a Mulroney, his own sense of the need for a shift away from apartheid was qualified by his continuing suspicion, until quite late in the day, that the freedom-fighters of the ANC, including Mandela himself, were mere “terrorists.” However, more savvy guardians of corporate power closer to the scene had grasped the fact that only the cooptation of the ANC into a formal position of power could forestall a revolution – and that it was perfectly possible to so co-opt it.

This is, in fact, exactly what now happened. The ANC passed into power, and, as the party of “liberation,” it proceeded actively both to demobilize the people and to seal a deal with global capital. The predictable result: though the economic gap between black and white has shrunk somewhat (as some blacks have become very wealthy indeed) the gap between rich and poor (still mainly black) has widened dramatically. Crime rates have risen as a reflex of this gross, class-defined imbalance in personal incomes, while among Mandela’s successors – Zuma and his cronies  – corruption flourishes.

More promising is the fact that there are also signs of rather more militant resistance to all of this. Indeed, while it is true that a genuinely effective and credible counter-hegemonic national alternative to the ANC has been slow to emerge, the level of social resistance to the state – by means of demonstrations, protests and other forms of social disobedience – that is so evident at the local level is now, in fact, the very highest in the world!

And here too may also lie the silver lining in Mandela’s own passing from the scene. For, after an initial and fully understandable period of general mourning, one can imagine that the removal from the ANC of the brilliant lustre of Madiba’s public image and the halo of his almost supra-historical resonance could mean a further diminishing of the once seemingly impregnable image that the ANC, at least at the national level, had managed to sustain. In fact, with this, a further beneficial levelling of the playing field of political contestation could occur: then, after Mandela, the struggle for a more genuine liberation might well further intensify in South Africa.

‘Generation Palestine’ reviewed in Middle East Monitor

Generation Palestine: Voices from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (Pluto, 2013) has been reviewed in Middle East Monitor (MEMO) this week by Romona Wadi.

On Rich Wiles’ edited collection, Wadi writes that it is:

a comprehensive analysis of the origins, struggles and achievements of the movement, providing a defence of humanity which Israel and its allies so competently ignore. From insights into Palestinian civil disobedience as non-violent resistance, to the inspiration derived from the South African experience in fighting apartheid practices, the book imparts the essence of BDS in a manner which challenges conventional rhetoric with a consistent approach garnered through collective consciousness.

In her concluding paragraph she says:

The book stands as testimony of activist internationalist resurgence against imperial detachment from justice – a reminder that accountability and the process which leads to its execution lies within the movement, as governments remain in contempt of legislation unless its safeguards their own impunity. The success of the BDS movement lies in enacting the foundations through which illegality and impunity are legally challenged, within a system already in danger of becoming institutionalised unless language is reinvented into a mobilising tool for education, justice and a dismantling of sanctioned human rights violations.

You can read the full article in its original context by clicking here.

To find out more about the book, or for purchasing information, simply click the cover image. You can pick up a copy today for just £13 including free UK P&P.

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“The BDS movement is the most enlightened, imaginative, moral, fearless and dynamic blow for freedom I have known for many years. I believe it will be a vital factor in the liberation of Palestine. The inspiring voices in this book will help achieve that goal.”

John Pilger

“Reading this book, talking about it and acting upon its ideas is a further political act against an injustice that has lasted a lifetime. ”

John Berger

“Generation Palestine is essential reading for all who believe in changing this world for the better. Never again should we ask ‘What can we do?’ Rich Wiles’ excellent book, and the BDS movement, provide us with the answers.”

Stephane Hessel, diplomat, writer, concentration camp survivor, former French resistance fighter and editor of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

Ben White: Israel’s similarity to South Africa’s apartheid is more than skin-deep

The following article was written by Ben White, author of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide (Pluto, 2009) and Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy (Pluto 2011). It first appeared in The National. To view it in its original context, click here.

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As the world has reflected on Nelson Mandela’s legacy and his fight against apartheid in South Africa, some have recalled his famous observation: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

That special bond between two peoples and their national struggles has in recent times contributed to increasing South African efforts to challenge continuing Israeli human-rights abuses and systematic discrimination.

White T01947A few weeks ago, the outgoing South African ambassador to Israel used the opportunity of his departure to make striking criticism of Israeli policies, calling them a “replication of apartheid”. Ismail Coovadia also rejected a gift of 18 trees planted in his name by the Jewish National Fund, a body that has played an important role in the displacement of Palestinians.

Not many countries find ambassadors talking of their policies in terms of apartheid, but coming from a senior South African diplomat, the charge stings all the more. It is a reflection of how South African politicians and civil society have increasingly embraced solidarity with Palestinians and taken the lead with regards to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)-related initiatives.

Pretoria has required the labelling of settlement goods, despite significant pressure not to do so, while there have also been notable expressions of support for the Palestinian boycott call in universities and trade unions.

These developments come as Israeli policies towards the Palestinians are increasingly talked about in terms of apartheid by observers on the ground and internationally. Continue reading