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.

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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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Tansy Hoskins – Preventing Another Rana Plaza

Tansy Hoskins, author of the forthcoming Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion (Pluto, January 2014), wrote an op-ed for The Business of Fashion this week on the aftermath of the Rana Plaza Bangladeshi garment factory collapse.

She argues that in the wake of Rana Plaza, it’s clear that voluntary self-inspection of garment factories by brands and retailers is not enough to avoid terrible human tragedy. Workplace health and safety standards must be set and enforced by the workers themselves.

We’ve reproduced an extract of the article below. To see the full thing go to businessoffashion.com. You can also pre-order Tansy’s new book for just £9.45 including free UK P&P, for this week only as part of our 40% off ‘back to uni’ special offer.

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Tansy E. Hoskins

Hoskins T02657On the morning of April 24, 2013, a group of garment workers argued with their managers outside Rana Plaza, a commercial building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which contained a number of clothing factories. The garment workers said the structure was unsafe; that cracks in the building’s concrete had appeared and were growing in size; and that they feared for their lives. The managers replied that anyone refusing to enter the building would have their wages docked, not just for that day but for the entire month. In Bangladesh, losing a month’s wages can mean starvation, so the garment workers were forced to climb the stairs to their work stations, gingerly stepping around cracks in the floor.

An hour later, the eight storey building collapsed on itself, its illegally built top storeys shaken to bits by giant generators placed there to keep the factory running during frequent power cuts. Thousands of workers dropped through floors and were crushed by falling pillars and machinery. Survivors were trapped in a living grave.

The official death toll of Rana Plaza was 1,133, making it the deadliest garment factory disaster in history. Another 2,500 people were injured, many disabled permanently.

To be clear: this tragedy was not an accident. Nor were the recent deaths at Tazreen Fashions, also in Dhaka, and Ali Enterprises in Karachi, Pakistan. Rather, these horrible events were fully preventable, the likes of which trade unions and NGOs have been loudly warning against for decades. Continue reading