Women’s struggle gets rare exposure

Strike a Rock, a documentary about members of the Marikana-based Sikhala Sonke organisation, puts you fleetingly into the thick of the women’s lowly struggle for dignity in that mining town.

Theirs, without arms or brute strength, was unlikely to make the news, except for a singular event — when ANC proportional representation councillor Pauline Masutlhe was gunned down by police during one of the many post-Marikana massacre crackdown raids in Nkaneng. That tragic incident probably galvanised the women’s movement, already strengthened by the collective pain many of them shared during the lead-up to and after the Marikana massacre.

The film follows two main protagonists, Primrose Sonti and Thumeka Magwangqana, two friends hemmed in by the industrial and human borders of Lonmin.

[A bond shared between two characters in Strike a Rock (Strike a Rock  documentary)]

Bosom buddies, with a seemingly natural flair for galvanising their neighbours into action — until personal circumstances and other unexplained forces set the two friends on a collision course.


Sonti, one of the first Economic Freedom Fighters foot soldiers in Marikana, is seen in the film saying she once saw EFF leader Julius Malema speak on television (presumably about Marikana) and she knew that the EFF was her party. Parts of the film captures her rise in the party, but it is dealt with patchily, leaving the impression that Sonti was a mere candidate of convenience for the EFF to secure some sort of a foothold in Marikana.

She plays her part, telling President Jacob Zuma in Parliament he is a thief and a liar. In her red domestic worker’s uniform, she refused to withdraw statements and retorted that she is doing the bidding of those who had survived the flying bullets of Marikana.

Magwangqana, on the other hand, is stuck in the morass of Marikana, left to pick up the slack in Sikhala Sonke and eventually drifting apart from her friend, who is still making the monthly trek from Parliament in Cape Town to Marikana.

Filmmaker Aliki Saragas struggles to set up the tension adequately that leads to the dissipation of this friendship.

The viewer is left to wonder what happened, watching these two women as they bravely confront the quickly changing terms of their increasingly political lives.

In the case of Magwangqana, one is left to assume that the source of her reticence to keep in touch with her old friend is the cloak-and-dagger stuff of nondisclosure agreements, signed at the time Sikhala Sonke sought some transparency about infrastructural development in Lonmin, a stipulation that makes little sense in the context of the situation.

With Sonti, one is left to assume that the distances she travels and the sudden ascent up a few tax notches because of her increased income has rearranged her priorities.

Although narrowed down to these two leaders, Strike a Rock is quite clearly a broader exposition of the unglamorous slog that is organising women in impoverished, patriarchal communities.

The camera, up close to our subjects’ faces, captures all their pathos and determination.

The story is jagged and scattered, leaving one without a sense of resolution, a metaphor perhaps for how women are ignored, becoming visibile only when they take the struggle into their own hands.

Strike a Rock opens on November 25, 2017

Subscribe to the M&G for R2 a month

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

And for this weekend only, you can become a subscriber by paying just R2 a month for your first three months.

Kwanele Sosibo
Kwanele Sosibo
Kwanele Sosibo is the editor of Friday, the arts and culture section of the Mail and Guardian.

Related stories

Marikana murder trial resumes

The eight-year battle for justice played out its next round in the Mahikeng high court this week

Totally gone mad: Covid-19 and the Trump presidency

Tracing America’s bungling of the containment of the coronavirus, Totally Under Control unveils the deep rot in Trump’s presidency

Kamogelo Lebotse: The Portfolio

Photographer Kamogelo Lebotse has been documenting the effects of the national lockdown on the people of Mahikeng

Zuma vs Ramaphosa? Neither is the leader South Africans deserve

Neither statesman could command sufficient authority in an ANC that remains mired in corruption and infighting and at the behest of big capital

George Bizos dies at 92

Renowned human rights lawyer George Bizos, who defended Nelson Mandela and other struggle icons during the treason trial and Rivonia trial, represented families at the TRC, and later represented Marikana miners’ families, has died

SA in dire need of a political spring tide

The only time change has occurred in South Africa is in response to global events such as World War II. The country is once again facing such an event — Covid-19 — and will have to react
Advertising

Subscribers only

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

Q&A Sessions: ‘I think I was born way before my...

The chief executive of the Estate Agency Affairs Board and the deputy chair of the SABC board, shares her take on retrenchments at the public broadcaster and reveals why she hates horror movies

More top stories

Between dark and light was Maradona

The life of Diego Armando Maradona, who died this week, will always remind us that the smell of shit is as important as the perfume of flowers, writes Niren Tolsi

Public protector’s ‘mistakes’ were made to nail the president, court...

Busisiwe Mkhwebane discarded facts that were inconvenient to her when she investigated the CR17 campaign, Cyril Ramaphosa’s lawyers argued

Student funding scheme gets new chief executive and board

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme has been under administration for two years after its board was dissolved and its boss resigned not even halfway through his term

General Council of the Bar slams Zuma Foundation

Another summons has been served on Jacob Zuma at his Nkandla residence, requiring the former president to appear before the Zondo Commission next year
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…