Marikana women speak of aftermath in documentary
THE tale of the women of Marikana has been recounted in the documentary film, Strike A Rock.
It’s more than just the story of the widows of the striking mine workers shot dead by police, but of an entire community whose lives are in tatters five years after the mining massacre.
Strike A Rock is also about giving a voice to the women, as their cries seem to have been erased from the entire narrative, including in the broader community of Marikana, says the film’s director, Aliki Saragas, who spent three years with the families.
The tale is told through the voices of two local women, Thumeka Magwangqana and Primrose Sonti, who have actively formed a support group, Sikhala Sonke, which lobbies for justice for Marikana dwellers, while also supporting its widows.
“So the film started really as my master’s thesis and it came out as a need to reinsert the women’s voices in the Marikana massacre discourse,” says Saragas.
“It had seemed like the women’s voices had been erased from the narrative, while they were doing amazing work politically and as activists on the ground to support the mine workers, to bring support to the widows and to try to bring justice, while fighting against the enemies such as the mine companies and the government.”
Saragas believes that this documentary brings forth these voices, alongside a new narrative that has never before been highlighted.
“In history, women’s voices were generally sidelined and I did not want that to happen to these voices too. It is about showing their fight, their struggles and the amazing work that they have been doing.
“We also zoom into the current problems within Marikana and in South Africa in general.
“It (the film) became a real current story that didn’t just focus on the story of the massacre, but currently on what they (the women) are doing, bringing forth the need for accountability.”
The difficulties that are prevalent within the community touch on the day-to-day rights that Saragas says are to be provided by the state and the mining companies. What the film helps its audience to understand is that the mining companies have a legal obligation to develop local communities. This may come in the form of a social labour plan.
“This is the very plan that allowed them (mining companies) to get their mining licences in the first place, but now they aren’t actually providing what they are suppose to legally.
“People are still living in the same conditions that caused such things as the Marikana strike and the subsequent deaths that we know about,” says Saragas.
“When people remember Marikana, they think it started on the 16th of August 2011, yet it didn’t.
“The crisis had been building up because of the labour plans that hadn’t been adhered to and people had been living in absolute squalor,” she says.
The crisis of children falling into pit toilets, no road infrastructure, flooding during rain and no electricity and water were common struggles for most mining communities.
“They (Primrose and Thumeka) tell it from the women’s perspective and really act as a mouthpiece for the nation.”
Saragas reminds us that it was not only the widows who were traumatised, but the whole community. .
“Even if they didn’t lose a direct relative, from the youngest of children, they grew up knowing that Marikana had blood in its soil.
“That is the actual trauma that the entire community faces and, on top of that, they still live in conditions that no person should be living in.”
The movie advocates for the rights of the women in these communities and the holding to account of the mining companies and the government for the development of these communities.
The film will be released at the end of November in local cinemas.