In August 2012, 44 people, including 34 miners, lost their lives at Marikana, in South Africa’s north-west platinum belt, in what was dubbed by the local media as the ‘Marikana Massacre’.
The miners, all of whom were employed with Lonmin—the world’s third largest platinum producer—were on strike demanding increased wages.
What began on August 10, 2012, as a peaceful wildcat strike (unauthorised by unions), escalated into an alleged turf war, as reported by the Guardian, between rival unions. It wasn’t long before the South African Police Service (SAPS) were called in to control the situation.
Between August 12 and 14, 10 people were killed, including two police officers and two security guards. In the morning of August 16, the SAPS commissioner confirmed to local news channel eNCA that they “intend to end the violence” that day. By the end of the day, the incident would go down as one of the bloodiest in post-Apartheid South Africa.
Pictures and videos, such as the one published by Reuters above, showed the police firing live ammunition on the miners. The death toll would touch 44 by the end of the day, with the number of injured nearing 80.
The police would claim that they only opened fire in self-defence. “The SAPS did all in its power to avoid a situation such as this,” said police commissioner Riah Phiyega. “The militant group stormed towards the police firing shots and wielding dangerous weapons. The police retreated systematically and were forced to utilise maximum force to defend themselves.”
However, the footage that was shown in the media was only a part of the truth. Inigo Gilmore, an award-winning journalist and filmmaker who has reported from conflict zones in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, unearthed more footage of the incident shot by the police themselves on mobile phone cameras, which had been hidden from the public until then.
Here is Gilmore’s report for Channel 4 News, which went unreported for months after the incident:
Gilmore revealed how he broke the story to Multimedia Journalism students at the University of Westminster during a guest lecture.
Gilmore began by saying that tenacity is the most vital trait for a journalist: “I waited and spoke to as many miners as I could after all of the rest of the media had left. That’s when I found the witness you saw in the report, Shadrak Mushamba.”
Towards the end of 2013, Gilmore returned to South Africa during the time of Nelson Mandela’s illness. “There were rumours that he [Mandela] was going to die and there were endless trips by Channel 4 and every other broadcaster to cover it,” said Gilmore. “I was partly going to keep an eye on that, but I wanted to go back to Marikana and explore further.”
When Gilmore reached Marikana, he asked around whether the inquiry commission into the incident had come up with any more footage. As it turned out, they had.
“It showed what had happened and nobody had made any noise about it,” said Gilmore. “It was a story.
“I got hold of the original footage and went through it along with my fixer, who speaks nine of the 11 languages in South Africa. Some of it is in English, some in Afrikaans, some in Tswana. We went through it all and caught a police officer saying, ‘I shot the m*****f***** 10 times.'”
After Gilmore filed his story, he said it caused a big stir in South Africa, including the media. “All the African journalists were asked how come they completely missed the story even though they were covering the commission,” he said.
“I think part of that is because they were just doing their day-to-day job and not really probing and trying to find out what happened. The moment I heard there was some footage from the police, I was like, ‘Wow, I need to get my hands on that!’ It was just taking a piece of existing footage—almost evidence in this case—and turning it into a story.”
Asked what it takes to be an investigation or conflict reporter, Gilmore said that preparation, networking and experience are very important: “You have to do a lot of preparation, especially in recent times in terms of the risks involved.
“The preparation involves knowing who your local fixer is; are they reliable and trustworthy? The more experienced you get, you develop relationships with people you work with. I have people in different countries who I can rely on and who can help me get out of a hole.
“There is a lot of preparation, but there is also a lot of quick learning involved: local conditions, what’s happening on the ground, local knowledge…You can’t do too much preparation, but to minimise risks it is key.”
Gilmore had advice for budding journalists just starting their careers: “Get the first foot in the door early. Even if it isn’t your dream job, don’t turn it down.
“You might want to get in and start as a junior producer or on the desk. Once you’re in there, you begin to understand how it all works and operates; it’s a stepping stone. There’s no set path; it’s about pushing yourselves and coming up with good story ideas.”
Gilmore also advised TV journalists to get a camera for themselves. “It can be expensive, but, you know, I have my own gear and I can go off on a moment’s notice and that’s incredibly important,” he said. “If you’re not confident enough to start doing your own packages, at least go try to shoot stuff and try to structure a piece.”
Gilmore ended the talk by again stressing on the importance of being tenacious as a journalist. “You have to be really pushy and go get it. You’ve got to stay on the stories. If you do, you can get some incredible and important results because, often, no one else is there to tell these stories. It’s important for these stories to be told. Marikana is a great example.”