Raw defiance rules the fierce heart of Marikana

Marikana miners at the koppie. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Marikana miners at the koppie. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Rapula Moatshe is swept into a march of defiant mineworkers on their way back from the now sacred Marikana koppie.

After nightfall on Tuesday in Marikana – it is the eve of the deadline for the striking mineworkers to return to work.

The workers have burnt three wooden shop stalls. The scene is 300m from the koppie where police killed 34 miners in August 2012.

To get there I have to drive down the road through the entrance to the mineworkers’ hostels. Local people are making their way to their homes on the streets. Three taxis are parked at the taxi rank.

In the distance I can hear mineworkers singing. They are wielding knobkerries and marching slowly in the middle of the road towards me.

One mineworker cautions me that it won’t be a good idea to use the road. I park a few metres from the taxis, and walk back towards the singing mineworkers.

I join some men seated on huge rocks for a better view of the demonstrators. They are not only armed with knobkerries, but also with pieces of sharpened steel and iron. There is even a golf club.

A dark man in blue overalls leads them in song. He shouts that people should take off their hats.

“They are wild and dangerous after they have been there,” says a man, referring to the koppie. The place has become sacred to the workers since the killings. They go there frequently to consult the spirits and perform traditional rituals before any strike.

The miners approach the men on the rocks and tell them to take part. I step aside, thinking they will leave me alone.

“Join! Join! Join!” marchers shout, brandishing weapons. The next thing I find myself in their midst. I look at a man wrapped in a blanket, dancing and wielding an axe. I can feel my heartbeat. I imitate the toyi-toyi dance.

I mutter the words of the anti-government song, stomp my feet and lift my right hand.  

There are a few men on the hostel stoep. Demonstrators shout again that they too must join, which they hastily do.

The demonstration serves as a warning to those who were considering reporting for duty the following day. They might be killed with the weapons, I hear.

We are now at the taxi rank. I sneak into the company of bystanders. I sigh with relief as soon as I realise they no longer give a damn.

They make plans to meet again on Wednesday at Wonderkop Stadium. And then they go home.

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