Marikana, the af­ter­math

In his new book, cel­e­brated in­ves­tiga­tive pho­to­jour­nal­ist Greg Mari­novich presents his find­ings on the mas­sacre at Small Kop­pie (Scene 2). In this edited ex­tract, he ex­am­ines the events that fol­lowed the shoot­ings, the treat­ment of the ar­rested mine work

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Mur­der at Small Kop­pie: The Real Story of the Marikana Mas­sacre by Greg Mari­novich Pen­guin Ran­dom House 267 pages R219 at

At the end of Au­gust, the po­lice con­vened a re­treat at the Roots wed­ding and con­fer­ence cen­tre in the town of Potchef­stroom. ‘Roots’, as the nine-day event came to be known, was where the po­lice fash­ioned a mix­ture of truth, lies and mis­di­rects into a nar­ra­tive.

Po­lice­men were coached into mak­ing state­ments that sup­ported a case of self-de­fence. Ev­i­dence of un­law­ful po­lice ac­tions, es­pe­cially at Scene 2, was sup­pressed. False ev­i­dence was in­tro­duced to show the min­ers as the ag­gres­sors. In­crim­i­nat­ing im­ages were deleted, and en­tire sets of im­ages were re­named to try to cover up the dele­tions. The se­cret meet­ing held by the po­lice lead­er­ship on the eve of the mas­sacre was struck from the record, and the record­ing of the meet­ing, as well as any min­utes of it, was de­stroyed. Even the of­fi­cial min­utes of the Roots con­fer­ence were rewrit­ten to hide the cover-up. Ev­ery po­lice com­man­der, ex­cept Bri­gadier Adriaan Calitz, re­frained from writ­ing their state­ment of what they had wit­nessed un­til af­ter Roots.

Fal­si­fy­ing the ev­i­dence and en­sur­ing that in­di­vid­ual po­lice­men’s state­ments did not in­crim­i­nate one an­other were not the only mea­sures taken by po­lice. On the night of the mas­sacre, the 276 min­ers who were ar­rested at Scene 2 were taken to Lon­min’s Num­ber One shaft. Shadrack Mt­shamba says they were left locked in po­lice Can­ter trucks un­til one in the morn­ing. They were not given the op­por­tu­nity to go to the bath­room, and sev­eral men re­lieved them­selves in­side the trucks. One by one they were taken to give state­ments be­fore they were in­structed to go out­side and squat in lines for hours, un­til af­ter dawn. It was a bit­terly cold night for the men to en­dure, and many of them were in shock and trau­ma­tised. Mt­shamba’s trea­sured leather jacket had been taken from him at Small Kop­pie by the po­lice and never re­turned. Once all the men were pro­cessed, they were taken to var­i­ous po­lice sta­tions across the district.

Mt­shamba was taken to the vil­lage of Bethanie in the for­mer home­land of Bo­phuthatswana. On ar­rival, he and oth­ers were forced to lift their shirts so that any an­i­mal-skin thongs or wool strings tied around their waists could be cut off. Th­ese tra­di­tional or African­ist religious para­pher­na­lia are used in the same way that Catholics, Angli­cans and Luther­ans de­ploy the de­vo­tional scapu­lar, as a fetish to ward off mis­for­tune and evil. The po­lice mis­tak­enly saw all th­ese spir­i­tual ob­jects as man­i­fes­ta­tions of witch­craft, linked to the in­telezi ap­plied by the san­goma. Any miner who dal­lied was struck with fist and boot. Af­ter that, they were locked in crowded cells and only fed bread and tea by the evening of the 17th, their first meal since be­fore the killings. Over the next days, their mis­treat­ment and beat­ings con­tin­ued. When they were brought to court, min­ers held at other po­lice sta­tions con­firmed that they too had suf­fered beat­ings. It was while the wit­nesses to po­lice mur­der were be­ing thus in­tim­i­dated that the In­de­pen­dent Po­lice In­ves­tiga­tive Di­rec­torate (Ipid), the cops who are meant to po­lice the cops, took state­ments from the ar­rested min­ers.

Worse was to fol­low. The min­ers, who had ini­tially been ar­rested on charges of pub­lic vi­o­lence, were then charged with the mur­ders of their slain co-work­ers. Pros­e­cu­tors used an an­ti­quated law known as the com­mon-pur­pose doc­trine un­der which the min­ers were ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble for the mur­der of their com­rades be­cause they should have rea­son­ably fore­seen that the strike and their pres­ence on the kop­pie would have re­sulted in those deaths. The com­mon­pur­pose doc­trine had been abused by apartheid courts in the 1980s to con­vict mem­bers of a crowd of mur­der in such political cases as the Uping­ton 26, in which fif­teen peo­ple were sen­tenced to death, as well as the Sharpeville Six. The Marikana mur­der charges would be pro­vi­sion­ally with­drawn by early Septem­ber. Mt­shamba and the oth­ers were re­leased af­ter three weeks in jail.

Other pro­cesses were un­der way while the min­ers were in jail and the po­lice were con­coct­ing their nar­ra­tive at Roots. Ipid asked Dr Reg­gie Peru­mal, the best-known foren­sic pathol­o­gist in the coun­try, to be an in­de­pen­dent ob­server at the au­top­sies. In his al­most twodecades-long pro­fes­sional ca­reer in pri­vate prac­tice, Peru­mal had in­ves­ti­gated some of the high­est-pro­file crim­i­nal cases in South Africa. Peru­mal, in turn, called on the renowned aca­demic Dr Steve Naidoo to as­sist him. They would be work­ing for the or­gan­i­sa­tion that in­ves­ti­gates po­lice abuses, a body that had a mixed record on com­bat­ing po­lice crim­i­nal­ity. On the morn­ing of 20 Au­gust, as Naidoo was on his way to the Dur­ban air­port to fly to the in­te­rior for the au­top­sies, his cell­phone rang. It was Peru­mal with bad news – they had been taken off the case. Ap­par­ently the min­is­ter in the Pres­i­dency, Collins Cha­bane, had or­dered Ipid to use only state pathol­o­gists.

Naidoo was fa­mil­iar with the stan­dard of work done in state mor­tu­ar­ies and was cer­tain they would make a hash of it. The chances of jus­tice be­ing served if the au­top­sies were bun­gled, or pur­pose­fully sab­o­taged, were close to zero. He be­gan to send out emails to his peers around the coun­try, ex­press­ing his dis­may at the state’s med­dling. Within hours, Naidoo re­ceived a call from Ad­vo­cate Ge­orge Bi­zos, the leg­endary hu­man rights lawyer. The soft-spo­ken eighty-four-year-old lawyer asked Naidoo if he would care to rep­re­sent the Le­gal Re­sources Cen­tre (LRC) as an in­de­pen­dent ob­server at the au­top­sies. Naidoo of course agreed, ask­ing if he could en­gage Peru­mal as his as­sis­tant. Yet they could not act just yet. To al­low them to take part in the com­mis­sion of in­quiry, the LRC had to per­suade at least one fam­ily of a de­ceased miner to agree to have the ven­er­a­ble hu­man rights body rep­re­sent them. Thus it was only on the morn­ing of 22 Au­gust that the Dur­ban-based pathol­o­gists got the go-ahead. As they were pre­par­ing to board their flight, Naidoo called Dr Kevin Sch­lesinger at the GaRankuwa mor­tu­ary, ask­ing him to hold off start­ing the au­top­sies un­til they ar­rived; he agreed. Af­ter land­ing at Lanse­ria air­port, on the north­west­ern rim of Jo­han­nes­burg, Naidoo called Sch­lesinger again from their rental car, only to dis­cover that the state pathol­o­gists had al­ready be­gun cut­ting up the bod­ies. Naidoo was fu­ri­ous, ac­cus­ing the North West prov­ince’s chief pathol­o­gist of ca­pit­u­lat­ing to political pres­sure. Peru­mal grimly pressed down on the ac­cel­er­a­tor.

At Ga-Rankuwa, they were met by a hand­ful of top pro­vin­cial health of­fi­cials; even the di­rec­tor from neigh­bour­ing Gaut­eng prov­ince was there. It was un­usual. Per­haps it would all be okay, Naidoo thought, as he and Peru­mal hur­riedly donned pro­tec­tive gear.

The smell of freshly opened bod­ies as­sailed Peru­mal and Naidoo as they stepped into the cav­ernous main dis­sect­ing room at the mor­tu­ary. The scent of fer­rous blood hinted at freshly spilt warmth, even though the bod­ies were by then a week old. A morgue, with its sour fer­mented stink of gas­tric con­tents and the hint of de­com­po­si­tion, smells noth­ing like the tame butcher’s fridge. This is a smell you try to block from en­ter­ing your body. The pathol­o­gists knew from ex­pe­ri­ence that in ten min­utes they would no longer no­tice it.

A dozen bod­ies were laid out on gal­vanised iron gur­neys, side by side, with just enough space be­tween them for a per­son to move along­side each corpse. The bod­ies were shrouded in sil­very body bags, some closed, oth­ers open, re­veal­ing the faces of the dead and, in some cases, their wounds. Some of the bod­ies had had the very skin flayed off them by the doc­tors dur­ing the ex­am­i­na­tion. One man’s ex­posed ribs, the flac­cid skin sliced away, looked sick­en­ingly like a side of pork ribs. The Ga-Rankuwa mor­tu­ary it­self was still a work in progress and piles of rub­ble and build­ing ma­te­rial had to be stepped over or around. The grey con­crete floor was cut through with sluice canals below in­dus­trial metal grids that ran to a cen­tral drainage point. Teams of pathol­o­gists, tech­ni­cians and as­sis­tants, their faces all hid­den be­hind med­i­cal masks, were busy on the corpses. Some had their shoes cov­ered by cloth booties, while the more ex­pe­ri­enced, or fas­tid­i­ous, wore welling­ton boots. It took a few sec­onds for the pathol­o­gists to recog­nise their peers among the group.

Peru­mal, with his decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in deal­ing with ob­struc­tive state em­ploy­ees, drew Naidoo aside and told him that they would have to work quick and smart. Peru­mal would work with the two state pathol­o­gists in the large room, while Naidoo would ob­serve in the smaller dis­sect­ing rooms, where the other two doc­tors were at work. Un­der the best of con­di­tions, it would be try­ing for them, but things would soon be­come more dif­fi­cult. While the pathol­o­gists were help­ful enough, dis­cussing their find­ings as they went from body to body, the state tech­ni­cians were ac­tively ob­struc­tive. To win a copy of Mur­der at Small Kop­pie,

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MARCH­ING ON Strik­ing mine work­ers with sticks, pan­gas and home-made spears at Marikana on Au­gust 15 2012, a day be­fore the mas­sacre that claimed 34 mine work­ers’ lives

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