Marikana: A day no one will forget
The video footage and the sound of bullets being fired into the crowd of striking miners was played on television and radio stations across the country and the world. It was a day that no one will forget, especially not me. I was there, hiding behind one of the police vans fearing that I'd get caught up in the crossfire.
A tense standoff between about 400 heavily armed police officers and 3,000 miners exploded into turmoil. I witnessed the miners being shot and their blood seeping into the ground. It was a harrowing experience and a challenging story to tell.
The miners refused to speak to journalists, especially the women. We were threatened by them on a daily basis and yet we had to tell their story. The police were also reluctant to give us details about their operation. I remember finding a body with other journalists on 14 August, 2012. He was lying in the veld below the koppie. We reported this to police. It seemed like they had lost control of the situation.
On 16 August, they went ahead with an operation which was intended to disarm and disperse the miners who were carrying spears, pangas, knives and even a few firearms. They were accused of brutally murdering 10 people, including security guards and police officers who were mutilated, burnt and hacked to death.
South Africans immediately took sides, some for the police and others for the miners. The Farlam Commission of Inquiry is still sitting and there are still more questions than answers two years later.
It all started off with miners abandoning their unions and embarking on an unprotected strike for an entry level salary of R12,500 per month. Being a miner underground is dangerous, their living conditions are appalling and they weren't being paid enough. The question, however, remains: Why did it have to be so violent?
While the commission is still trying to find out whether the police were justified in using live ammunition, the Marikana community is still dealing with the trauma. The area looks almost the same as it did two years ago. There has been some progress in terms of housing for the miners but many still live in shacks near the infamous koppie.
Platinum mining houses have also suffered this year after production came to a halt due to one of the longest standing strikes in South Africa.
Women, children and the miners who live there are battling to cope financially, but also with the trauma of seeing their colleagues being killed at the hands of police. They want to know who will take responsibility. The real question is, how will government prevent something like that from ever happening again?