A documentary about a 2012 mining strike in South Africa that ended in the death of 34 workers premiered to the world in Prague on 3 March 2014. An insignificant event by world standards, the content of 'Miners Shot Down' struck a visibly emotional cord with the audience. The killings touched raw nerves and sent blood racing as many in the audience questioned the logic of the police attacks on defenseless mine workers and expressed disappointment in the South African government. Now the outrage and call for justice is shared by hundreds of thousands more people around the world as the film is screened in other countries.
Background to the film
Photo courtesy of Uhuru Productions
A lethal cocktail of corporate greed and disgruntled workers mixed with political self-interests in the 3 largest platinum mines in South Africa (namely Anglo American Platinum or Amplat, Lomin and Impala Platinum) serves as the backdrop to this documentary. The workers' union led by young mine workers like Makhanya Siphamandla and Jacob Khoza organised a peaceful strike for an increase to the low basic wage above the yearly inflation rate.
Their requests were rejected by mining bosses who continued to enjoy a sizeable share of the high profits instead of reinvesting some of it back into wages and providing suitable living conditions for mining communities. In fact the 3 big platinum mines made profits that were double those of South Africa's top 40 companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange between 2000 and 2008 when the price of platinum also rose to $2,100 per ounce in 2008. While an ANC government report in 2012 cited an average 15 percent return on investment for mining companies, Amplats and Lonmin's were 76 percent and Impala's was 129 percent.
The ANC government has also done nothing to stop the companies from giving a lion's share of profits to their shareholders, protect the workers and address their plight.
Renowned South African director and former political exile, Rehad Desai was instrumental in bringing this film to life through his on his own film and television company, Uhuru Productions. In addition to the award-winning 'Miners Shot Down' he also produces other documentary and dramatic works and is a director of the Tri-Continental Film Festival.
Rehad painstakingly reconstructs the sequence of events that led to the worst episode of bloodshed since the end of apartheid, that of the workers' strike of August 2012 in South Africa's Marikana mine. With the help of mine worker leaders like Makhanya Siphamandla and Jacob Khoza, testimonies and actual footage, 'Miner Shot Down' illustrates how the miners' non-violent demonstration for a higher wage over 7 days was ended with 34 workers shot dead and many more injured by state police forces.
This is more than just a film about the massacre. It displays a disturbing picture of injustice against the poorest people by corporations in pursuit of profits in South Africa, and collusion between big business, the ANC and Cyril Ramaphosa who all saw the strike as a common threat. It is a grassroots effort to spur social justice upon those who abuse their power in South African society. It is a flag-bearer for people like Makhanya and Jacob (who are arrested) and the 100,000 workers engaged in their country's most significant political strike to date.
Miners Shot Down' will be coming to New York courtesy of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The Apollo Theater and World Music Institute as part of the Africa Now! South Africa festival and African Film Festival, Inc. The FREE screening of this acclaimed film will be held at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a research unit of The New York Public Library and one of the world's leading research facilities devoted to preserving, illuminating and illustrating the richness of black history and culture. Visit the website to grab your tickets before they are all gone. Do note that all registered seats are released 15 to 30 minutes before start time so make sure you arrive early.
In addition to watching the film, you too can help the campaign for justice for the Marikana miners. Here are 3 simple things you can do in New York. Firstly, you can gather some family and friends in your own home and show the film. If you are involved in any local community organisation or school, you can also organise a public outreach screening of 'Miners Shot Down'. For both screenings, you can contact Anita Khanna at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance. If all else fails, just share this article with everyone.