Marikana commission of inquiry: From narratives towards history

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13 Citations (Scopus)


The Marikana Commission of Inquiry was established following the killing of 34 Lonmin strikers by South African police on 16 August 2012. This article provides a substantive review of the Commission’s Report, released in June 2015. It highlights the Commission’s assessment that a decision made by top generals the evening before the massacre was ‘the decisive cause’ of the deaths. This and other findings against the police are contrasted with failure to make any recommendations for prosecution. Evidence presented to the Commission is used to draw different conclusions from those in the report. In particular, the article argues that the initial killings, broadcast live on television, were a consequence of planning by the operational commander, rather than a response to workers’ aggression. Culpability for the massacre is also considered. While the narrative presented by the police was discredited, that articulated by workers was largely vindicated. However, this did not restrain the Commission from making comments hostile to the workers, and this antipathy is viewed as a factor leading to errors of judgement. The article was written in honour of Colin Murray. Resonating with his work, it ends by urging historians to take workers’ voices seriously, something that Lonmin, the police, media reporters, and the Commission conspicuously failed to do.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)815-839
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Southern African Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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