In a tuxedo, director Rehad Desai did not look much like a wild-haired radical when he went on stage in New York this week to receive an International Emmy for Miners Shot Down, his documentary about the Marikana massacre in 2012.
The documentary, a powerful work essentially detailing the killings from the striking miners’ viewpoint, was shown on television in the United States – hence the Emmy. But it has not been aired on any major South African channel at all. Still, Desai and his team were congratulated on the prize by a spokesperson of the very government implicated in the massacre; it appeared that the spokesperson, despite his eloquent words on the benefits of “arts and culture”, had not seen the film.
We, too, congratulate Desai and his team, and we join the chorus in favour of it being shown on SABC – it is, after all, our national broadcaster and Miners Shot Down deals with matters of national interest.
But we can also see why the SABC under its present regime will never show the documentary: it makes ANC leaders, and the ANC government in general, look bad. And the ANC, clearly, has no comeback. Never mind that Riah Phiyega, who was the just-anointed commissioner of police at the time of the massacre, is now being hung out to dry by those who appointed her in the first place – the only real admission so far by the government that it did anything wrong at Marikana.
The minister of police was not called to account, nor was the minister of labour. A commission of inquiry that had looked somewhat hobbled from the start finally dragged itself to a very wishy-washy conclusion, finding itself unable to pin much responsibility on anyone – except for Phiyega, who essentially condemned herself from the stand. It’s as though everyone took their cue from Cyril Ramaphosa, who had urged strong action against the Marikana strikers, when he told the commission piously that “we all”, meaning South Africa as a whole, should take responsibility for the “tragedy”.
Let’s say we agree. Okay, Cyril, we are all responsible, not just the capitalists who own the mine, the police with their heavy weapons, and a state that can’t sort out or take ownership of the problem. Can we see the documentary now?