DocEdge 16 | Miners Shot Down

The opening sequence features a hail of bullets, followed by rising smoke and dust, briefly camouflaging the bodies of dead and injured miners strewn on the ground. The documentary Miners Shot Down, directed by Rehad Deshai, is a haunting, moving and informative account of the Marikana massacre that took place in 2012– the deadliest protesting clash with police to occur in South Africa since the Sharpville massacre during the darkest days of Apartheid.

The bluntness of the documentary title speaks to the weight of the event – thirty-four miners were killed unnecessarily. Despite repeated communications from miners that they had no wish to fight, the intent of the police force and the politicians that controlled them are laid bare. Before the fight even begins, the police order four trucks from a nearby morgue. After the fight, footage can be seen of policemen bragging about the shooting skill it took to take down the miners.

Miners Shot Down is not an emotive compilation without direction or substance. The documentary contains clips from the Marikana Commission of Inquiry and enlightening interviews with key figures from the event such as Lonmin Mining director and Deputy President of the ruling political party (the African National Congress) Cyril Ramaphosa, mining strike leaders Tholakele Delunga and Mzoxolo Magidiwana, and Pulitzer award winning photojournalist Greg Marinovich. These are interviews that would never be shown on public television in South Africa, given that the South African Broadcasting Corporation is firmly controlled by the government.

Miners Shot Down above all portrays a story of political betrayal. Apartheid has ended, but the majority of black South African citizens are still living in poverty, fighting for a living wage. The struggle heroes who had once rallied miners and organised strikes against Apartheid, but who are now wealthy politicians in the African National Congress (ANC), had abandoned those they fought with and sanctioned the police brutality against the miners. The ANC, who had liberated South Africa from Apartheid, had turned into the oppressors they had deposed. The documentary depicts a major turning point for the young democracy of South Africa. The battle for equality and freedom, both economical and political, is not yet won.

New Zealand’s history has its own memories of Apartheid in South Africa, having been part of the worldwide protests against it. If you enjoy history and global politics, this documentary is ideal and will remind you to never stop fighting for what you believe in.

Buy tickets to see it here.

The 11th DocEdge Festival takes place in Wellington 4-15 May and Auckland 18-29 May –