An hour’s drive from the Marikana mine, at a provincial courthouse, the storm cloud has yet to strike. Here, a group of workers have just been released from prison. They parade through the streets to celebrate their liberty. They chant Malema’s nickname, “JuJu,” and sing derogatory songs about President Jacob Zuma as they march.
They are among the 270 mine workers who escaped the bullets when police opened fire during a strike last month, only to then be charged with the murder of 34 of their colleagues who were killed. In one of many echoes of the past to emerge from the massacre, the men were accused under an apartheid-era law that the white minority regime once used to criminalize entire crowds of black protesters. The charges were later withdrawn.
The freed men say they will return to the mine to demand higher wages and to protest against the way in which the wealth of South Africa’s vast natural resources is carved up.