Imraan Coovadia teaches creative writing at the University of Cape Town and is the author, most recently, of the novel “The Institute for Taxi Poetry.”
THE 34 miners killed by the police earlier this month in a wildcat strike at a Marikana platinum mine, in northern South Africa, were immediately engaged as bit players in various morality tales. Marikana reminded some of the 1960 police massacre at Sharpeville; suggested to others that poverty and division had survived apartheid; or foretold a sharp confrontation between capital and labor. To many, it either predicted or confirmed the political and moral disintegration of the ruling party, the African National Congress.
I hesitated in choosing among these fables because a writer’s single item of professional knowledge is that a story is a speculation about the world, composed under the sign of luck rather than of law or reason. Good stories, like bad stories, have a way of escaping the facts.
If the international press framed Marikana as a tale about deprivation and inequality, it missed the specific dynamics of a strike in a country ruled by former unionists, Socialists and Communists....