Feature

South Africa: An ongoing massacre in the mines

South Africa’s miners are dying almost every day—the massacre at Marikana just made us sit up and notice.

Micah ReddyMail & Guardian

South Africa’s miners are dying almost every day, said Micah Reddy. Last month’s massacre at Marikana just made us sit up and notice. Fed up with unsustainably low wages and a union that failed them, a few hundred platinum miners there armed themselves with machetes and a few guns. After performing a juju ritual that they believed made them impervious to bullets, they charged the police, who let loose with automatic weapons, killing 34. Media coverage has focused on police brutality and superstition among the uneducated masses, but the deeper story is the desperate state of South Africa’s mining shantytowns. “Statistically speaking, a Marikana massacre occurs many times every year,” as dozens of miners lose their lives in accidents, “to say nothing of the hundreds of others who are maimed or permanently incapacitated, or who suffer slow, agonizing deaths from silicosis and other industrial diseases.” Mining companies earn hundreds of millions of dollars in profit each year, yet they refuse to spend a few thousand to fix the pipes that leak raw sewage into their workers’ communities. Miners live in dehumanizing squalor, unable to school their children or care for their sick. No wonder they strike and, when their demands are ignored, turn to violence.

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