Marikana, South Africa - They came in their thousands to the vacant plot of land between the rocks and shacks. Mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters, and wives descended to the outskirts of Marikana to pay their respects to the 34 miners killed by police on August 16, 2012, in the most of brutal of police operations in South Africa's near history.
Altogether some 44 people were killed in a spate of inter-union violence and police brutality over six days of tensions in this mining town in the north west province in South Africa. The killings shocked the country, brought back memories of apartheid-type brutality against the black population, and was a chilling reminder that so little in South Africa has changed for the majority. Marikana shifted the political playing field, ushering in a quest for new representation over a tired liberation movement losing touch with its people. It also prompted concerns over the rising discontentment of the country's working class, fast losing patience with government excuses.
But while the commemoration was devastating, the mood in Marikana was far from sombre. Workers, opting to take the day off work, sat in the dry winter's sun for close on the entire day, chanting, praying, singing and even dancing collectively in remembrance of their colleagues. They were joined by workers from the surrounding platinum mines who travelled to pay homage to the fallen workers, they identified with the workers of Marikana and their persistence to gain a better standard of life.