The incandescent women of Marikana

The women of Marikana are marching tomorrow, Saturday, September 22. They have had enough, more than enough, and, as one reporter notes, they are beyond angry. They are incandescent with rage.

They will march as they have marched before, to create a space in which they will be heard, to create a space in which State violence against women, against poor working women, against poor working women’s communities, will end. They will march for peace, they will march for justice, they will march for the incandescent power of their own voices, stories, visions, songs, lives.

Paulina Masuhlo, also known as Pauline Masuthle, will not march with the women. It will be the first time she does not march with them. In the past month, Paulina Masuhlo was often the public face of the women of Marikana. She led the first women’s march after the Marikana massacre.

Masuhlo was an ANC Councillor. She took her job seriously. When the massacre broke out, she met with women in Nkaneng, a cluster of shacks close to Wonderkop. Masuhlo was meeting with women in Nkaneng, when the police swooped down and through the informal settlement. According to eyewitnesses, the police fired rubber bullets, indiscriminately and without provocation. It’s called `a police operation.’ Masuhlo was shot. She died in hospital on Wednesday. The ANC is `shocked’. Others find it `ironic’ that she was shot by the government she represents.

Masuhlo was shot because she was a woman talking with women in Marikana, where everyone is suspect.

This Saturday the women of Marikana will march. Testimony after testimony by Marikana women reveals the fear they live in, they swim and breathe in, as women in Marikana. That same testimony expresses the courage, commitment and organization it takes to tell one’s story … if one is a woman living in Marikana.

Tomorrow the women of Marikana will march, and perhaps incandescent rage will light a path away from death and murder, will light a path to justice.

(Photo Credit: Greg Marinovich/Daily Maverick)


by Ari Sitas

The digital images fold as the TV screen tires
The cops, rifles in cabinet, past their third beer are edging towards bed
The night is quiet as the smelter has been closed,
the only music is of the wind on razor wire
the ears are too shut to hear the ancestral thuds on goatskin
humanity has somehow died in Marikana
who said what to whom remains a detailed trifle
the fury of the day has to congeal, the blood has to congeal
I reverse the footage bringing the miners back to life
in vain, the footage surges back and the first bullet
reappears and the next and the next and the next
and I reverse the footage in vain, again and again in vain

The image of the man in the green shroud endures
Who wove the blanket and what was his name?
There are no subtitles under the clump of bodies, no names
stapled on their unformed skull
A mist of ignorance also endures, a winter fog
woven into the fabric of the kill
The loom endures too, the weaver is asleep
The land of the high winds will receive the man naked
The earth will eat the stitch back to a thread
What will remain is the image and I in vain
Reversing him back to life to lead the hill to song
In vain, the footage surges back
another Mpondo, another Nquza Hill, another Wonder Hill
the shooting quietens: another anthill

My love, did I not gift you a necklace with a wondrous bird
pure royal platinum to mark our bond?- was it not the work of the
most reckless angel of craft and ingenuity? Was it not pretty?
Didn’t the bird have an enticing beak of orange with green tint?
Throw it away quickly, tonight it will turn nasty and gouge
a shaft into your slender neck
And it will hurt because our metals are the hardest- gold, pig iron, manganese
yes, platinum
Humanity has somehow died in Marikana

What is that uMzimu staring back at us tonight?
Darken the mirrors
Switch off the moon
Asphalt the lakes
At dawn, the driveway to the Master’s mansion
Is aflame with flower, so radiant from the superphosphates
of bone
of surplus oxygen and cash,
such flames, such a raw sun
such mourning by the shacks that squat in sulphur’s bracken
and I wait for the storm, the torrent, the lava of restitution
the avenger spirits that blunt the helicopter blades in vain

these also endure: the game and trout fishing of their elective chores
the auctions of diamond, art and share
the prized stallions of their dreams
their supple fingers fingering oriental skins and their silver crystals
counting the scalps of politicians in their vault

The meerkat paces through the scent of blood
I want it to pace through the scent of blood,
she is the mascot, the living totem
of the mine’s deep rock,
the one who guards the clans from the night’s devil
she is there as the restless ghosts of ancestors
by the rock-face
feeding her sinew and pap

goading her on:
the women who have loved the dead alive
the homesteads that have earned their sweat and glands
impassive nature that has heard their songs
the miners of our daily wealth that still defy
the harsh landscape of new furies
the meerkat endures-
torn certainties of class endure
the weaver also endures: there-
green blankets of our shrouded dreams
humanity has died in Marikana

The strike is over
The dead must return
to work

*(after a tough two weeks and seeing Pitika’s miner sculpture with the green corrugated iron blanket)

Ari Sitas


(Photo Credit:

Lonmin: Massacre is never justified

Police, armed to the teeth, kept the peace at the tumultuous Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana, Rustenburg, in the North West province of South Africa. The reports differ as to the price of peace. Some claim nearly 50 dead, others 30 some. Killed by police bullets.

Striking miners had occupied a hill, Wonderkop, ostensibly because “it is not mine property and the police would not kill us here.” They did. The police came, surrounded the hill, and, at some point, opened fire on the protesters. The police opened fire with live ammunition.

The State claims to have claimed to accept responsibility. What could we do, it says, when the miners were so violent, when protests have become so violent? `We’ could show up with some other than live bullets.

There’s more to the story … and there’s less.

Massacre is never justified. In the very many, eloquent, passionate, and often persuasive analyses that have followed the massacre that occurred just yesterday, one thing is being missed. Massacre. The existential thing that massacre is.

Massacre is not just another word. Massacre is when language stops, when reference and when representation stop. It is an absolute rupture of all. One doesn’t `explain’ massacre. One simply stops. Because massacre is absolutely impassable.

The question of how the massacre occurred will be debated and, hopefully, answered. Hopefully, the answers will lead to humane policy and practice.

But first … stop. Remember, massacre is never justified. No peace follows massacre. No justice emerges from massacre. Nothing emerges from massacre.

And now?

A hundred women danced in a dirt road on Friday, singing protest songs amid ramshackle wooden and corrugated metal shacks sitting over one of the world’s richest platinum deposits. These songs were once directed at South Africa’s white apartheid government, but these women were singing to denounce their own police who fired on their striking menfolk, leaving 34 dead, the day before. The police came here to kill our husbands, our brothers. Here. Our children!” said 42-year-old Nokuselo Mciteni.”

Nothing emerges from massacre. Nothing.

(Photo Credit 1: AFP)