thought of the day: my marikana moment

I am having a Makirana moment.  This is how I now think about these moments when South Africa does something so vile and shocking I am left without words.  I have often reflected on my reaction when I first heard that miners where being target shot by the police following weeks of what had admittedly been a violent strike.   I recall trying to justify the numbers – so as to control the shock value.  First it came that 7 miners were killed and I thought – 7 more Tatanes.  This was without saying a tragedy  one more personal than national South Africa has come to understand the vocabulary of protest and clashes with the police in the number of lives lost.  One Tatane lost is a minor incident, one Mido Masia is acts of police brutality but surely not sufficiently enough to make my country stop.  So this news of 7 Tatanes had me thinking this was a rather excessive use of force but that would merely mark the numbers of dead at a protest – the price of a voice.  I was somewhat silenced, no, cold is rather the better description – I was chilled by the reality of this moment but also certain that it would pass after a few days in the news.  then the numbers rose; I heard it was 12 than 20 and so on until I could not stop thinking about the number without the image of Sharpville flashing through my mind.  This was surely more than collateral damage; the cost of the unprotected strike.  Still this silence that gripped me, now immobile and the cold came from fear rather than deep seeded indifference and apathy.  This is how it must have been in South Africa all those years ago – an atrocity can happen and the sky does not fall and the ground turn to water to mark the moment, the shift in a certain reality.  But there I was at my desk working and having no words.  This is how I have come to describe this moment when the earth should spin in reverse or the sun should be bowed for a moment and yet life carries on.  On the evening news – the new chief of police was telling me that this was the ideal end to the stand off, worse yer, those miners who got away with minor wounds were led into the back of police vans and imprisoned without reason and without telling their families.  Now I felt reality was in a way moving in reverse but it was I out of place – everyone justified their capture and some snag praise at the deaths and the rest of us watched immobile and mute.  this is my marikana moment.


I am not unaware of the irony of my frustration, paralyses and fear at the thought that we were being silent.  Many people ask why we call ourselves Miyela, which means to be quiet and still, be in a state of reflection.  Suddenly my silence felt like a physical pain and yet I did not know how to break it.  All I knew was that the opposite of miyela was being asked of me and I did not know how to speak, what to say and to whom I would send my confused thoughts.  I am terrified of the Marikana moment and hoped that I would never find my mute and out of step with my country and her people. The Mido moment happened and took the moment to be brave and have a voice and reaction to this – so I thought, I’m good, I’m back with my loud mouth social activist, tree hugging self.


This morning while driving my daughter to school, I heard about a video of a woman being beaten that was going viral.  A woman was being beaten by a belt and hummer at the back of a store.  Redi on 702 was going a little crazy even by her standards trying to get the store to make an official comment and say more than that the manner would be looked into and disciplinary measured instituted.  The callers were outraged and despite my better judgement I searched for the video.  I’m writing now – to try control another Marikana moment.  I fell a chilled silence wiping over my body and i am genuinely sad for this woman, for the safety of woman, to be born a girl in South Africa, for the powerlessness of poor women and for having to hear her plead for her life.  I have no words – I don’t think such indignity has a place to be framed in my mind.  one has a good sense of the scope the possible in the world, but more and more I see what is being done to women, to poor black women, to children, and my sense can only allow me to follow the fanciful.   I wish i could take every girl, woman, child and go on a long cruise to the middle of no particular place and we can just live and be safe, with dignity and our humanity intact.  I sometimes allow myself to fantasize about a day when all the men in South Africa would wake with their beds empty, their kitchens empty, the streets, in the offices, in the lifts and parking lots, in the open fields there would be no woman in sight.  I wonder if they would be any happier, would they dignity feel restored  would their pride be respected now, would they have anymore power?  I can not say this enough – if any of this is part of a discourse of power and masculinity then I must say again that my being born a girl has nothing to do with you and no matter how much you pound your hammer against my flesh and break my bones, I can not make you feel more of a man.  I am sad for the woman and can only think how humiliated and terrified she was  and i am sorry.  I want to reach in and stop the hands that hurt her, I wanted to cover with the dress she is desperate to keep down and sooth out the bruises on her body and I, afraid again I have no words.  I hope all of us; men, women and even our children could see this and instead of laughing as some have, we should know that this is wrong and should never be allowed to happen in our name.  I keep thinking of Bishop Tutu, saying “not in my name.” and i hope this call will grow and our Marikana moments will be stamped by a clear recognition that these things can not be allowed to happen in our name.

 it is not important that you watch the video, but i hope if you choose to; you will will free your voice in saying this can never be done in our name


for the love of peace