A Slaughter In South Africa

Aug 28 2012 @ 8:00am

Deadly protests over dismal pay and poor housing at a platinum mine peaked on August 16 when 34 miners were shot and killed by police in a matter of seconds (seen above). Roy Robins steps back:

[T]he country is still reeling. The Marikana massacre, recalling apartheid-era violence and portending potentially devastating conflict, is South Africa's "Back to the Future" moment. It reminds an already fragile nation that it lacks responsible leadership, basic public services like safety and security, and, too often, rule of law. The country remains one of the most violent in the world, with 43 murders reported every day. Many remember the apartheid-era police, who saw black people as inhuman and therefore eradicable, and see this inhumanity echoed in the actions of today's police force.

Daniel Magaziner and Sean Jacobs see the tragedy as a growing pain for the relatively new democracy:

Human rights and democracy are wonderful and the world justly celebrates South Africa for having attained them. But the years since 1994 have demonstrated that poverty and inequality can be far wilier foes than white supremacy. South Africa was white supremacist, but it was also characterized by a particularly brutal form of capitalism, with few or no protections for workers. That latter hasn't changed much. In the days since the massacre, Lonmin has ordered the miners back to work without adjusted wages; the company's public statements [PDF] have fretted about what it means for their shareholders' bottom line. In the years since 1994, state violence against protesters has been frequent — witness the 2011 police killing of schoolteacher Andries Tatane during a protest calling attention to squalid conditions in townships. In post-apartheid South Africa, Marikana was not aberrant; it was just excessive.