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Marikana bloodbath: South Africa must construct a society that is respectable and would not humiliate folks

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On 16 August mine employees, activists and little question a number of politicians will collect on the now infamous rock outcrop close to the previous Lonmin Platinum mine in Marikana, North West province, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Marikana massacre. This was probably the most deadly use of drive by the South African police for the reason that 1976 Soweto uprising in opposition to the then apartheid regime. Not less than 138 folks died in three days.

In actual fact, the Marikana bloodbath was so brutal that it has been likened to the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, the place apartheid police shot unarmed civilians of their backs as they fled, killing 69. They had been protesting in opposition to identity documents that black folks had been compelled to hold, proscribing their motion.

Between 12 and 16 August 2012 a complete of 47 folks died. Amongst them had been 34 miners from the Lonmin Platinum mine shot by police. One other 10, including two policemen and two mine security guards, had been killed by protesting mineworkers. Three others died after the strike had ended. As well as, 78 miners had been injured. Most of them had been shot with R5 navy fashion assault rifles by cops and safety officers from the Lonmin Mine.

This 12 months, the commemoration of the occasion coincides with my professorial inaugural lecture on the College of Theology, Stellenbosch College. How does my work as a public theologian and ethicist hyperlink with violence and the pointless lack of life that came about in Marikana?

It transpired as I used to be conducting some analysis for my inaugural lecture. I got here throughout a element in interviews with the hanging miners that I had not seen earlier than. Central to the mineworkers’ calls for was an enchantment to decency.

I want to take my cue from the thinker Avishai Margalit, who, in his e book The Decent Society, asserts that (p.1)

a good society is one whose establishments don’t humiliate folks.

He argues that it’s the confronting of societal evil that brings us to a politics of decency.

Primarily based on my analysis into the bloodbath and its aftermath, I consider that the pressing process in South Africa is to study to reside extra “decently in an indecent society” – and by no means to overlook Marikana.

What’s decency?

The custom of the professorial inaugural lecture is that when one is promoted to full professor one ought to have one thing to “profess”. Having spent years studying, listening, reflecting, educating and writing, one would have a physique of labor, and maybe even a number of concepts, to share.

I actually struggled to discern what to say. In spite of everything, what could be becoming, accountable, or correct, for a white male ethicist to “profess” in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in 2022? My battle deepened as I mirrored on the indecent, and racist, act of a white pupil urinating on the belongings of a black pupil on the college. He has since been expelled.

When the college set the date of my lecture for 16 August 2022, I realised that it coincided with the tenth anniversary of the Marikana bloodbath. I had previously written concerning the bloodbath and its iconic chief, Mgcineni Noki.

That article argued that spiritual folks and religion communities should as soon as once more take up the battle for justice in South Africa as a main concern. Furthermore, two of my PhD college students, Jayson Gribble and Jaco Botha, had conducted research on the Marikana bloodbath. So I used to be comparatively conversant in this painful occasion within the nation’s historical past. Nonetheless, as I used to be studying interviews with the miners I got here throughout one thing that I had not seen earlier than. It shook me.

In her book Marikana: Voices from South Africa’s Mining Bloodbath, Kate Alexander data (p. 25) that the hanging miners

wished their employer, Lonmin, to take heed to their case for a respectable wage. However this threatened a system of labour relations that had boosted income for Lonmin, and had protected the privileges of the dominant union, the Nationwide Union of Mineworkers. It was determined to deploy ‘most drive’ in opposition to the employees.

Many South Africans have turn out to be accustomed to the phrase a “living wage”, as utilized in labour relations. It refers to a minimal earnings that permits employees to subsist. It’s a brutal society during which folks would accept mere residing as an appropriate commonplace.

At Marikana, the employees had been clear: they had been advocating not just for a “residing wage”; they had been holding their employer to the next commonplace. They wished a “respectable wage”, and so they hoped that the rights accorded to them in a democratic South Africa would shield them of their trigger.

They wished to safe a way of life that would deconstruct the historic indecencies of migrant labour, the separation of households, residing in poverty and being humiliated and dehumanised by wealthy and highly effective folks and establishments. To them that amounted to at least R12,500 (US$758 at as we speak’s trade price) a month.

Allow us to pause for a second to mirror on this phrase: “respectable”.

What may it imply within the South African context? What may it imply on the tenth anniversary of the Marikana bloodbath?

Decency for the victims of the Marikana bloodbath was about extra than simply assembly their naked wants for survival. But, whereas they had been hanging for decency, their employer, and the nation, enacted probably the most violent of institutional humiliations upon them. They had been killed in an indecent method. So far there have nonetheless not been any prosecutions of the police and safety officers who killed the miners.

Sadly, South Africa and South Africans appear to be slipping ever extra deeply into indecency, as proven by the current gang rape of eight women in Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg.

The nation has one of many highest rates of rape and gender-based violence on this planet.

In the hunt for saints

The American novelist Kurt Vonnegut was as soon as requested how he made sense of residing by way of one of the troublesome and violent occasions in that nation’s historical past. The Seventies noticed the height of the Vietnam war, rising poverty, increasing economic inequality, political corruption beneath President Richard Nixon, and the deepening of American racial injustice. He replied (p. viii),

what made residing nearly worthwhile for me had been the saints I met. They might be wherever. They’re folks behaving decently in an indecent society.

If somebody had been to ask me the identical query, I must say that I’m on the lookout for some unusual “saints”. In actual fact, I do see them on occasion. They’re folks behaving decently amid the indecencies of society.

They’re feeding the hungry, advocating for justice, working for peace, and holding the highly effective to account.

South Africa wants extra folks, and collectives, who’re dedicated to residing decently, whose dedication is to undo the systemic humiliation attributable to the nation’s political and financial establishments, which is shamefully missed by its residents. That is an pressing process.