Charles Cilliers
4 minute read
26 Aug 2016
5:46 pm

Hey Trevor Noah, you might be wrong about Marikana

Charles Cilliers

I used to feel the same way about the slain miners as you do, but watching 'Miners Shot Down' changed my mind.

Host of The Daily Show Trevor Noah arrives on the red carpet, 25 November 2015, at Silverstar Casino, Krugersdorp, for the opening night of the Comedy Central International Comedy Festival. Picture: Michel Bega

Dear Trevor, let me say from the outset that I am your fan and have been from the first time I watched you at a Blacks Only show at Emperors Palace. I stayed your fan even when other comedians were alleging you stole their jokes.

You’re a brilliantly funny guy, but being funny doesn’t always equal being right. And twice now I’ve heard you say something as if it’s uncontested fact, and you seem unaware that it’s highly contested. On both occasions I’ve found myself arguing with you on TV, so much so that my fiancée took it upon herself to point out to me last night during the airing of your eNCA interview with Jeremy Maggs that, “You know Trevor can’t hear you, right? That thing is not a transmitter. It’s a TV. It just receives those signals from space.”

“Yeah, but those signals are transmitting nonsense. I need to tell Trevor that.”

“He’s all the way over in New York, darling.”

In any case, here goes. Hopefully you will see this someday, and hopefully it will give you pause for thought so that I am spared having to shout at my TV a third time.

The first time I screamed was when you said during a comedy show that the striking miners at Marikana on August 16 2012 had charged the police with weapons. You made some jokes, as I recall, about how they then couldn’t be too surprised that they got shot.

Okay, that’s a bit harsh, Trevor, I thought, but I made allowances for the fact that the stand-up show in question was a bit old, and maybe the documentary Miners Shot Down had not come out yet. I was pretty sure you could not possibly have seen that documentary, which – by the way – the SABC continues to refuse to show to the people of South Africa.

That’s the reason why I shouted at the TV much louder last night, because Miners Shot Down has been out for some time  now and is available to view on YouTube. I figured someone with your station in the world would have made the time to watch it. If you did, and still felt you could say, as you did, to Jeremy Maggs, that “you cannot deny – and there is footage – where miners were charging at the police with weapons … and still the country was not happy with the result”.

There’s at least one thing you got right there. The country was not happy with the result. Speaking for myself, I’m still not happy with it.

The footage you’re talking about shows those striking mine workers running, with their traditional weapons. Maybe they were charging those cops. And yes, at least one of those miners seemed to have been taking pot shots at the police using a pistol. But maybe, as the filmmaker Rehad Desai concludes at the end of his documentary, they were possibly just trying to get away from the harassment of the police who were setting in motion a plan to encircle all those miners and fence them in. And those guys didn’t want to be fenced in.

The footage certainly suggests the men were trying to escape being corralled like cattle. And if that meant fighting their way out, then that’s what they were willing to do.

What the footage you, perhaps, haven’t seen, shows is how those guys were pursued relentlessly by the cops, who were attempting to corner them. And all of that happened before a single shot was fired.

Let’s not even talk about the despicable actions that took place at Small Koppie after the initial round of shootings, where 18 fleeing miners were hunted down by the police like dogs, many of them shot in the back.

Are you still wondering why the country “was not happy with the result”? Not everything makes for a good joke. At the top of that list is everything that happened at Marikana, where mortuary vans were ordered the day before the massacre.

And then we’re not even considering the absurdity of what all those cops were doing harassing a bunch of very poor, dusty and exploited chaps in blankets on a hill in the middle of nowhere, where they had been harming no one. They were not on private property. They certainly weren’t doing any damage to that hill.

Marikana is a great stain on the conscience of this country and there’s a lot that can be denied about it. The problem is that too much has been denied.