Saturday, December 9, 2017

Smoking a cigarette: a flame at one end, and a fool at the other.

Allow me to explain what being a smoker feels like;
Imagine you're opening a tap, and you dip your finger into the stream. A glass is filled with crystal clear water. To the touch, the water is cold, but on your tongue, the water is foreign. It is not quenching or sustaining anything but your bodies innate longing for hydration. On your tongue, the water is warm, adultered and stripped of its value. I decided to persecute the cells on my tongue, singing a slow, ritual lullaby of death.
I engaged in ten pulls of seven to ten cigarettes every day for nine months. My body is made up of 70% water and yet today, it's first interaction with my insides is disgusting. Is my body even worthy of Godly liquid? Should I stick to the fizzy Coca Cola so that I can actually taste the fizz and the heaps of sugar? Is that the goodness I have reduced myself to.

There is a trend amongst brown girls, but girls in general to try smoking a cigarette. I told myself that trying could not harm me because addiction is a choice. I justified my beginnings because I wanted to learn the trend, to experience what it felt like to be in the social environment of smokers. I had seen smokers looking cool, nothing more or less. On the television, the movies and adverts painted smoking as glamorous. If anything, I was allowing myself the opportunity to be cool. The best scenes in the movies went down with a cigarette in hand, excitement on the end of each pull, words more fluent, thoughts more clear. I was promised this lifestyle by Hollywood, that is if I had a cigarette in my hand.

On the contrary, I can no longer taste water and I am nauseous, literally and figuratively. At this very moment, as I sit with my orange book and a black pen- spilling onto a page, I can not comprehend why I will ever reach for a cigarette. There is a disconnect between what I want to do and what I am doing. My beliefs are no longer in line with my actions, and this gives way for dishonesty. I can't even trust myself to listen to myself. What else can my body do to itself against my will?

It is a difficult but crucial decision to quit. I remember once I quit for a week. Husnaa physically detained me with the weight of her body a few times, for which I am grateful. She was teaching me to be stronger. I had made a decision that week to intervene in the 'fun' before things got any worse. That week, I felt free, but like I was partaking in a fast that never ended. The physiological monster exits.

In 72 hours, the nicotine leaves the system, and picking up a cigarette is the beginning of the end, again. Nicotine is addictive. The psychological monster enjoys the habit of holding a cigarette and the feeling of hot air hitting your tongue. This monster is stronger than the other, because your dependence is psychological. I tried to play addiction, but addiction played me.
I never intended to be this dependent, to constantly have this large urge ringing in the back of my head. I'll tell you this much, you can never be proud of smoking. Once you lose the ability to hold yourself accountable for your health, there is nothing more to life.

My health, in terms of allowing oneself to go through the ebbs and flows of life, is the end all and be all. My value lies in my choices, and allowing myself to be sired to a capitalistic stick of gunky tar, is not my choice. But I partake, like a sheep being herded in a field of idiots.

It is my firm belief that the best way to smoke a cigarette is to not smoke it. And the best brand, you ask, good old, free, oxygen. Smoke it. Smoke the living hell out of it.

So, a message to the non-smokers; avoid the temptation and do not be fooled by the illusion of grandeur. The land of temptation is an extremely strong place to be. It is a land where you are not fighting yourself, it is more of a friendly debate. Change that. Fight it, firmly. Don't even allow the thought of it to tickle you. You are capable, healthy, and not reliant on a toxic substance. Be.
After noting these thoughts, I can confirm that the best way to quit is cold turkey. I am not sure where this phrase originates from, but it's essence is 'stop right now'.

Wish me luck and hold me to it.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Marikana Massacre

34 armed striking miners were shot and 78 were wounded by police officers on the 16th of August 2012.

This elicits a valid question, why were the miners driven to striking which led to the eventual unnecessary death of some? The strikers were employees of Lonmin public limited company, one of South Africa’s biggest platinum mines, who had temporarily vacated their posts as miners.

Context, Miners Shot Down
Marikana is a besmirched town 70 kilometres North West of Johannesburg. The Wonderkop informal settlement near Marikana platinum mine in Rustenburg, South Africa, was the scene of intensive violence on the days leading up to, and on, the 16th of August 2012.
The strike began on the 10th of August 2012, with 3000 miners requesting negotiations with the National Union of Miners (NUM) regarding a salary increase.
A day later, two unarmed strikers were shot by members of NUM, who claim to have acted in self-defence. The strikers had made an attempt to plead with members of NUM to support their strike. Following this incident, the power struggle between the strikers and South African Police Force (SAPS) began as the strikers donned weapons. Machettes and Pangas, weapons that are indigenous to the South African land.
This served as an excuse for the South African Police Force (SAPS) to enlist live ammunition.
On the morning of the conflict, the NIU, Special Task Force, Tactical Reaction Unit, Public Order Policing, Crime Intelligence, Detective Services and K-9 were deployed at Marikana. According to News24, the policing units ordered 4000 rounds of powerful automatic ammunition and four mortuary vans that had the capacity to carry 12 bodies.
According to Gareth Newman, the Institute of Security Studies head of Governance Crime and Justice Division, the police planned for bloodshed. “[it is] the responsibility of the police commander when facing a high risk situation to avoid the loss of life or bloodshed. That is the legal responsibility they have, by law.”

Molaole Montsho, a journalist with the South African Press Association said that the police opened up with a water cannon, stun grenades and tear gas. This is confirmed in the live footage sourced by Rehad Desai, the producer of the documentary film, Miners Shot Down.

The scene is exacerbated by the use of barbed wire to fence in the moving strikers.
There were two scenes of conflict; the first scene witnessed police opening fire on strikers between RG-31 Nyala police vans and the second scene (Klein Koppie), acted upon twenty minutes later, contained police standing on rocks, shooting down at the panicked strikers.  17 people died on each scene, including two policemen, with a total of 78 wounded and 50 strikers arrested.
In September of 2012, Jacob Zuma announced a Commission of Inquiry, headed by Judge Ian Farlan. The Commission of Inquiry took a year of funding and costs an apparent R153 million to fund, according to News24. The Commission saw formal hearings, subpoenaing the people in position of authority, witnesses and grieving family members.
Evidence leader, Mbuyiseli Madlanga in the Commission of Inquiry, coined the Klein Koppie one of a ‘killing frenzy’.

Mainstream accounts
Media publications were unable to publish accurate news due to the lack of information revealed to journalists and media houses. The information imparted was that of heroism by the SAPS, managing a seemingly hostile situation.

The general public had the impression that the strike at Marikana was that of a un- controllable situation and the police had to take decisive action. This was perpetuated by the policing units press statements and the news that hit the newspapers and television screens.

During the days leading up to the shootings, the public underwent cognitive dissonance due to the choice of words used in any media coverage, or lack thereof. The word ‘massacre’ was not used to describe the shootings until enough citizens started questioning the acts presented to them.

The accounts laid out by online publications were those of retrospect. The journalists and media houses failed to investigate the intention of the presiding policemen from a legal perspective, a job that could not be done by SAPS. The unfolding of the truth regarding the doings of police is the responsibility of a journalist, because the way in which the news is represented will impact the importance of the topic.

The following context can be found at the bottom of current news articles regarding the findings of Farlam’s Commission of Inquiry;
 “The commission, led by retired Judge Ian Farlam, is probing the deaths of 44 people during labour-related unrest at Lonmin’s platinum mining operations at Marikana. On 16 August 2012, 34 people, mostly striking miners, were shot dead and 78 people were wounded when police fired on a group gathered at a hill near the mine. They were trying to disperse and disarm them. In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in strike related violence.”
The information provided above was never reported upon as a hard news story. Not by News24, or TimesLive. Infact, on the 16th of September 2012, a month after the massacre,  TimesLive published an article stating that they had news from that South African Defence Force (SAND) that at least a thousand soldiers were deployed at Marikana. The relevance of the striking miners only became relevant enough for mainstream news after 44 people had been killed.

 Since the massacre in 2012 and the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, there has been an influx of news stories regarding the aftermath. It is important to note that, although the commission investigates, their responsibility is only to recommend legal action to the Presidency, Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

The commission brought a frenzy of news articles from all media platforms, as an overcompensation for the silence. News24 have more than 100 news stories updated about the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, since it began in 2014. The journalistic responsibility kicked in when the killing of 34 miners became a national crisis. However, journalists have an editorial responsibility to create the necessary waves of national crisis by picking the angle that best suits the victim.

It can be noted from the film, Miners Shot Down, that the reaction by policing units was not proportional to the action of the strikers. There was no impending danger to act on.
Advocate. Dali Mpofu called the events of the 16th of August 2012 “disproportionate and heinous” during the Commission of Inquiry’s hearing in July of 2014

A rationalising of violence facilitates a common notion of violence being acceptable at the threat of violence. Moral Panic is a collective state of fear that was experienced by the government of South Africa and members of the public. The fear, that one may feel, from the strikers was exaggerated in the way the events off the strike was represented in the media. The ‘fear’ is so exaggerated that the relativity is greater than the actual risk. This creates a circular tautology in that there is no answer and no end to the fear that one could feel, almost an aggressive cycle that would certainly justify the mob mentality with which police set out on their endeavor.

The SAPS police on the scene of the shootings, acted upon herd mentality (Freud), in that each police was influenced by their peers to adopt the behaviour around them. Behaviourism, in a crowd, is known as crowd psychology and touches on the psychology of a crowd greatly differing to that of individual interaction. i.e. the chances of police shooting and killing 34 miners would have been less lightly if each police met a striker individually. The crowd of policemen encouraged each other to commit the crime.

As a result, the general public were falling comfortably into their cognitive dissonance, in that the thought of police opening fire on non-aggressive strikers disrupts the cognitive harmony. It is the understanding that discomfort leading to an alteration in an attitude or belief will incur discomfort. So, the restorative balance is to be dissonant on the topic, something South African’s do to this day regarding protest action. One can often hear moans about road closures and burning tyres but forget to ask why there is a strike or what can be done to aid the strikers.    

Mail & Guardian and The Daily Maverick
Journalist Greg Nicholson has released a few feature articles depicting his distaste for the structural and political violence witnessed at the Marikana Massacre.

In in-depth study of the scene of the massacre from the video footage, sourced by Reyad Desai for his documentary, Miners Shot Down, it is clear that the protestors were calm until police rolled our barbed wire and began fencing the strikers in. A decision was taken by the strikers, at that stage, to escape the fencing, out of sheer agitation. This presented a clearer image off the police employing tactics of violence to elicit hysteria at the scene.

Cyril Ramaphosa, the founder of NUMSA and a shareholder at the Lonmin PLC, was announced vice-president of South Africa four months after the massacre. His involvement as a shareholder and a prominent politician at the time, had the potential to subdue the strike action. Advocate Dali Mpofu, representing arrested and wounded miners, suggests strongly that Lonmin should be held responsible for the people killed at its Marikana mining operation, according to News24. According to the DA’s Musi Maimane, Riah Phiyega, the National Police Comissioner and Nathi Mthetwa, the then Minister of Police should both be dismissed and an investigation regarding their ‘criminal liability’ in the massacre should ensue.

Jacob Zuma addressed the nation in a means to appease the families that had lost lives, when the Farlam Commission of Inquiry was released. He stated that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had not laid charges. In June of 2015, Zuma defended the actions of the police force in Marikana stating that their actions were to prevent the strikers from killing anyone and to protect themselves from being killed by protestors.  

It is important to note that even if police members are prosecuted, one should not assume that convictions are likely. However, in a turn of events, on the day of the massacre approximately 279 strikers were arrested and later convicted of murder, public violence, illegal gathering, possession of dangerous weapons and intimation. According to News24 and Andries Nkome, a member of the defence team, the charges have now been dropped due to the fact that the state would not be able to prove these cases, if the matter went to trial. The arrests and charges were a means of intimidating and silencing the protesters.
It was discovered in the Farlam Commission, the SAPS members on scene at the Marikana massacre who could be accused of murder face charges of ‘defeating the ends of justice’ for how he represented his role in Marikana as a police officer, according to the Daily Maverick. An analyst from the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) says that he found a glaring gap in the Commission of Inquiry in that there was a particular lacking of first-hand accounts from police officers, “those who fired the weapons.” (News24)

There is a lot of speculation by the Commission of Inquiry of interfering with evidence by the police and politicians. In May of 2013, a witness expected to testify at the hearing was shot at the Lonmin offices, according to News24.   In April of 2015, a thief broke into Advocate Dumisa Ntesebeza’s car stealing her laptop containing vital evidence for the Commission of Inquiry.

During the Commission of Inquiry, Advocate Dali Mpofu, asked Brigadier Adriaan Calitz about police tampering with the crime scene. To which Calitz responded that if the deceased miner was residing on a weapon, he had to be removed in order to remove the weapon. This leads us to question the severity of the police mandate suggesting that strikers need to be disarmed. Major General William Mpembe, the North West deputy police chief, supposedly took the decision to ‘go tactical’. At the Commission of Inquiry he said, under oath, “The decision to implement the dispersal was agreed upon at that morning.”

The thought circulating around these articles present on the Daily Maverick is who decided to ‘go tactical’. The brigadier, Ledile Malahlela failed to secure the voice notes of the SAPS management meeting, where the decision was supposedly taken to ‘go tactical’. The tape was erased, according to news reports from News24.

The actions of mine management and union leaders were inadequate in preventing 3000 miners from becoming so distressed that protest action was necessary, how was this the situation that culminated when there were so many opportunities for arbitration and conciliation leading up to this massacre? Who gave the green light for the “go tactical” approach adopted by SAPS on the morning of the incident?  Why was there an opportunity for evidence to be tampered with and public opinions to be swayed before a modicum of truth was allowed to seep into the mainstream media?
Miners Shot Down provides an evidence-based perspective of the Marikana Massacre. The demarcation of due blame felt by the viewer, with raw footage that cannot be denied.


1.      Accessed: 30 May 2017
Marikana: More than four years after the massacre that shocked the world, charges against police finally laid
GREG NICOLSON 12 DEC 2016 12:35

2.      Accessed 30 May 2017

Marikana Massacre: “He is fine, let him die”


3.      Accessed 31 May 2017
South African police open fire as striking miners charge, killing and wounding workers Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

4.      Accessed 31 May 2017
      Soldiers deployed to support police operation in Marikana
       Sapa | 16 September, 2012 08:09


5.      Accessed 31 May 2017

      Lonmin self-defence argument queried

      Sapa | 21 August, 2012 12:04

6.      Accessed 1 June 2017
City Press
15:55 19/03/2013

7.      Accessed 1 June 2017
13:06 03/06/2013

8.      Accessed 1 June 2017
Marikana: The missing consequences of a massacre
11 AUG 2016 01:45

9.      Accessed 1 June 2017
Cognitive Dissonance
by By Saul McLeod published 2008, updated 2014

10.  Accessed 2 June 2017
I took Marikana decision – Mpembe
City Press
16:23 13/06/2013

11.  Accessed 2 June 2017
Mpofu: Barbed wire sparked mayhem
 13:50 21/01/2014

12.  Accessed 2 June 2017
'Disproportionate' force used at Marikana
 14:49 30/07/2014
13.  Accessed 2 June 2017
State drops charges against Marikana miners
City Press
18:18 20/08/2014

14.  Accessed 2 June 2017
'We didn’t hear from a single Marikana police officer’ – analyst
Paul Herman, News24 | News24
 21:03 26/06/2015

15.  Accessed 2 June 2017
Marikana police 'planned for bloodshed' – analyst
Paul Herman, News24 | News24
 17:57 26/06/2015