Migrancy, war and belonging: the cultural politics of African nationalism at Marikana

SOURCE: Transformation
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 11196
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/15136
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11910/15136

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This article revisits the Marikana massacre of 2012 in order to address the meaning of the cultural politics of ethnicity, migrancy and nationalism at the time of the massacre. In the aftermath of the Marikana massacre, the South African police alleged that they were caught up in a tribal war or faction fight between striking miners and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the mines. It was argued that the striking miners were acting as violent, ethnic subjects or tribesmen, while the state and the police were simply neutral arbitrators caught in the crossfire. Today we know that this version of events is untrue, and that the police were principal aggressors at Marikana, shooting many striking miners in their backs. But even today there are few studies that have seriously engaged the persistence of labour migrancy and its impact on the cultural politics at Marikana. The article offers a reading of this politics by foregrounding the role of migrant culture, while at the same time rejecting the easy recourse to ideas of tribe and ethnicity as adequate explanations of the violence and political consciousness at Marikana. The article highlights the connection between new forms of cultural nationalism in South African and the persistence of migrant labour which continues to have a profound impact on South African politics today.