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Leon de Kock considers Marikana in an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Losing the Plot

SLiPnet has shared an excerpt from Leon de Kock’s forthcoming book, Losing the Plot: Crime, Reality, and Fiction in Postapartheid Writing, to be published by Wits Press this year.

In the excerpt, De Kock considers how the Marikana massacre has been covered in the media, underlining the prominence of what he calls “‘true’ writing about perceived ‘crime’” in South Africa.

In addition, he suggests that the Marikana massacre demonstrates the country’s “routinely pathological public sphere”, and that the media representations of “ruptured and broken bodies” come to stand in for a “shocked” public sphere. As such, De Kock says, Marikana “blurs the line between the private and the public, bringing otherwise nonpublic and unknowable agony, something that threatens the ‘body public’ as much as it hurts private bodies, into affective general view”.

However, a brief synopsis does not do the excerpt justice. Read it in full:

If there is one event in postapartheid history that concentrates all the elements of a pathological public sphere, and suggests that the country is as much in the grip of a wound culture as it is a (mal)functioning democracy, then it is the event known as the Marikana massacre.1 The salient details of this event, as extensively reported in the media (and narrated in at least one full-length documentary, by Aryan Kaganof, as well as a multi-tiered, multimedia Mail & Guardian online “project”2), are the following: 34 people, most of them striking rock-drillers at Lonmin platinum mines near Rustenburg in the North West Province, were shot dead by members of the South African Police Services (SAPS) on 16 August 2012; in the preceding week, 10 people had been killed in strike-related “unrest” (to use a peculiarly South African euphemism for uprising), including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards; the Farlam Commission of Inquiry set up by government to investigate the incident and report on its causes saw evidence that suggests the police/state used a key witness, Mr X (real name withheld by the commission) to testify falsely in its favour as part of what appears to be a cover-up, as this witness’s evidence was shown, during cross-examination by advocate Dali Mpofu and others, to contain what appear to be irreconcilable contradictions and plain lies.3

Well-credentialed commentators on the killings, including Pullitzer-prizewinning photojournalist Greg Marinovich, writer/filmmaker Kaganof, sociologist Sakhela Buhlungu and others detect in this event the combination of a neoliberal ruling elite and big capitalism setting its amalgamated face against exploited underground mineworkers earning as little as R5000 a month. For many commentators, including family members of the slain miners, Marikana recalls the Sharpeville massacre of 1960 in which 69 people were gunned down by the South African Police (SAP), as well as the killings associated with the Soweto uprisings in June 1976, and the Bhisho massacre in 1992.4

 
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