A scene from a movie we never wanted to see

CityPress - - News -

We stood around, wait­ing for the prone men to jump to their feet like ac­tors at the end of a suc­cess­ful take. They didn’t move. The po­lice closed in on those still, slumped forms. Of­fi­cers dragged some along the ground, put their boots against oth­ers and shook them. The men on the ground were searched for weapons. Po­lice built a pile of sharp ob­jects pulled from pock­ets.

I asked a col­league to zoom in on some of the pic­tures on his cam­era.

The hor­ror jumped to life. One of the men on the ground was miss­ing a large chunk of his head. Blood was trick­ling from oth­ers’ heads.

They were never get­ting up again.

A group of fu­ri­ous jour­nal­ists, pro­fes­sional masks slip­ping, turned on po­lice of­fi­cers stand­ing nearby.

“You have just killed peo­ple! What have you peo­ple done? How could you?” I screamed.

They didn’t re­spond. They were pac­ing, swear­ing, sweat pour­ing down their faces. Some were cough­ing, scream­ing for wa­ter. They had mis­read the wind di­rec­tion and a bar­rage of tear gas di­rected at the min­ers blew back into their faces.

Spo­radic gun­fire still sounded. I heard po­lice of­fi­cers scream­ing or­ders. Marikana was burn­ing.

Three days ear­lier, an hour af­ter I ar­rived in the North West town, two po­lice of­fi­cers and three min­ers were killed in a skir­mish be­tween strik­ers and cops.

Then four more died: two Lon­min se­cu­rity guards and two min­ers who’d ap­par­ently been am­bushed on their way to work.

Amid the chaos, a group of jour­nal­ists de­fied the po­lice and Lon­min’s stern warn­ings. We went to the kop­pie pop­u­lated by heav­ily armed strik­ing min­ers and asked for in­ter­views. Once we’d con­vinced them we weren’t cops, they agreed.

As we left, we dis­cov­ered another body. Isa­iah Twala, a Na­tional Union of Minework­ers shop stew­ard, had been hacked to death. He was prob­a­bly killed while we sat with the strik­ers on the other side of the kop­pie. – Poloko Tau is City Press’ Lim­popo cor­re­spon­dent

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