Book Review: The Spirit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Trade Unionism in South Africa by Luke Sinwell with Siphiwe Mbatha


  • Phillip Broster



Marikana, Review, Union


Despite its title, this book does not look exclusively at the massacre that occurred at Marikana on 16 August 2012, when South African police officers shot and killed 34 striking mineworkers and wounded 78 others. Rather, it places that event in the context of a longer, larger struggle for dignity and economic freedom by the working class in South Africa. The authors did not do this to trivialise this significant event but to implore the reader to recognise that it was one moment, one particular incident in a long history of struggle and conflict, one that is not necessarily more important than another. As such, it pursues what George Lipsitz has called the ‘long fetch’, looking into the past and identifying the forces that slowly shaped what may otherwise appear to have been sudden and inexplicable.1 The book does this by attempting to describe the tensions between the various ‘ordinary’ individuals – the striking employees of Lonmin’s platinum mine at Marikana – and their relationships to the labour collectives they started, helped lead, or held to account. It attempts to show how understanding these tensions is crucial to understanding the events that occurred at Marikana, and understanding South Africa as an economic project.


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George Lipsitz, Footsteps in the dark: the hidden histories of popular music, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.






Book review