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’We are Going to Kill Each Other’

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IOL Maribook

Pretoria News Photographer Phill Magakoe:

IN THE days leading up to that tragic day, August 16, 2012, I got numerous calls from my colleague Poloko Tau, a journalist at The Star.

He told me about the situation in Marikana.

I was also told how tension had built up between striking Lonmin mineworkers, the SAPS and Lonmin mining company and the competing unions NUM and Amcu in the platinum mining town of Rustenburg.

At first I was reluctant to cover the strike because I hadn’t followed the events.

But my photo-journalistic instincts eventually got the better of me.

I decided to head to Marikana.

When I arrived, I called Tau for directions.

He replied: “We are near the koppie where the striking miners are, listen to my directions carefully.

“I don’t want you approaching from the wrong side.”

Not knowing what he meant by that, I was overwhelmed when I eventually found him with other journalists and a photojournalist.

They were facing the koppie, entirely covered by thousands of striking mineworkers who were singing, chanting and armed with pangas and spears.

It was a site to behold.

Reading the book We Are Going to Kill Each Other (Tafelberg, R240) more than a year later gave me more real insight, even though I had been there, documented the tragic killing of 34 miners by the police, and stayed in Rustenburg for the next month.

I now understand more about the migrant workers, who they are, where they come from and their personal circumstances.

Also, what role their traditional beliefs played.

More important, I could now put names to faces.

The book also offers more insight from the SAPS side, the difficulties they encountered, their plan of action to solve the problems, who was in command and why.

It also focuses on the blame game by the two rival unions. The commission of inquiry is also extensively covered.

If you want to know about the tragedy and the days leading up to it, this is a good place to start.

The documentary, Miners Shot Down, was also an eye-opener, more so than the book.

You learn more about the Lonmin and police decision-makers, gaining a fuller picture and broader understanding of the issues on the ground.

It tells the story from the miners’ point of view, without fully taking the role of the police into consideration.

They had a huge task.

In the days leading up to the incident there were dead bodies popping up all over the show.

Some of these were gruesome killings, without it being clear who the perpetrators were.

I feel the police had a job to do, yet those who responded to the call were wrong.

They can’t just kill people in that manner. I hope that there is a better way to handle such situations

I don’t know what the solution should be, but the way it was handled wasn’t a solution.

And what the documentary does, most importantly, is to start the conversation.

It also focuses the attention on the events that went so horrifically wrong.


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