Documentary questions the role of government and journalism in Marikana

SHOT DOWN: One of the final posters for the film.

SHOT DOWN: One of the final posters for the film. Minersshotdown.co.za

The Wits Journalism Department hosted a screening of Miners Shot Down,  a documentary on the shootings at Marikana, as part of a wider discussion on investigative journalism.

Miners Shot Down, a documentary by Rehad Desai, was screened this Tuesday at Wits University, at a discussion about the state of investigative journalism in South Africa.

The film depicts the Marikana massacre which followed after a prolonged strike by mineworkers for an increase in wages. The shootings, by the police resulted in the deaths of 34 miners.

With video clips of prominent people like photojournalist Greg Marinovich speaking of the aftermath, National Police Commissioner, Phiyega, former Intelligence Services Minister Ronnie Kasrils, the film questions the role of government in the massacre. According to Desai, the footage from Marikana is the unedited versions of the killings.

The documentary opens with a scene where the miners are being gunned down by police officers. The action and tension builds up in a chronological sequence, from what led to the strike, until the day of the massacre. The narrative is from the perspective of the miners which results in a poignant telling of a story that has been heard from a number of different perspectives.
Head Wits Journalism, Professor Anton Harber, told Wits Vuvuzela that he found the film powerful because it raised important questions about who was responsible for the massacre.

“What was shocking was not just the apparent callousness of the police, but the depth of the collusion between the mine managers and the police in the build up to the shooting,” Harber said.
Tebogo Mogole, a 4th year LLB student said, “The film was real; it exposes the truth which is obviously not coherent what we were initially told.”

The role of the media

The film also questions the coverage of events by journalists because it shows the contrast between what was initially portrayed to the public versus what actually happened.

James Nichol, a lawyer working pro bono representing the dead miners’ families at the Marikana judicial commission, was present at the screening and he highlighted the importance of investigative journalism in the case.
He said that the post-mortem results of the dead miners raised questions of the killings as there were 14 people shot in the back, yet the police maintain that it was an act of self-defence.

“journalists should be the “protectors of democracy,”
According to Nichol, journalists should be the “protectors of democracy”, holding people accountable for their actions.
Harber said, “The film shows the importance of an investigative approach in that it gathered evidence to challenge the official view of what happened.”
Desai said that his intentions with the film were to set the record straight by giving truthful narratives and “moving people emotionally to incite help and ensure that a painful event like this does not happen again”.
The film was released last year and it has received several international awards such as an Aung San Suu Kyi Award for Best film and two South African awards: the Golden Horn Award for Best Documentary Feature and Achievement in Sound.
The film screening dates can be seen on their website: www.minersshotdown.com.

Watch the trailer of the movie here: