Marikana mural artists shot

2014-08-15 20:33

Artists painting a Marikana massacre mural in Nyanga, Cape Town, have been attacked and a cameraman shot twice in the leg.

The mural is part of a public arts initiative to commemorate the August 16 massacre that happened two years ago.

Ironically, the artists and activists who are engaged in the Marikana anniversary campaign inspired by Rehad Desai’s hard-hitting documentary Miners Shot Down were highlighting the lack of safety in public spaces, violence in society and threats to democracy.

African Arts Institute general manager Belisa Rodrigues said she and seven other artists and activists were painting an 80m wall bordering a rugby field along Emms Drive at about 10.30am today when she heard the camera that City Varsity film student Steven Mokhachane was using to document the process fall to the ground.

Rodrigues said she turned to see Mokhachane wrestling a gun from an assailant.

“A gun went off, then another gun went off. Apparently there were three people. I saw later that Steven had a graze on one leg from a bullet and a bullet in his calf from the other shot.”

She said the attacker, who was grabbing Mokhachane’s camera and equipment, urged his accomplice to shoot the film student.

After wounding Mokhachane, the gang of three fled with the camera and a black bag containing tripods and recording equipment.

Although wounded, Mokhachane went after them but artist Ayanda Mpono, who was also at the scene, said the attackers fled in a white bakkie.

Rodrigues said in the commotion directly after the attack, three separate police vans drove past but police ignored calls for help. However, phone calls to the police station resulted in police arriving about ten to 15 minutes later, said Mpono.

Mpono, who lives in Nyanga a short distance away from where they were working, said they had been busy at the site all week, preparing the wall, and also had 50 children from local schools involved in painting the wall on Wednesday.

He said he noticed that criminals from the area were around but knew they wouldn’t do anything because he and Mokhachane, who also lives in Nyanga, know them and would alert the CPF and community leaders if they were attacked.

However, Mpono said the criminals might have alerted other criminals from another township that audiovisual equipment was being used on the street.

“There were three guys, two pistols. The attackers were not from our area,” said Mpono.

He said gunshots were common in Nyanga.

“There were about 20 gunshots this afternoon after we were attacked. Young kids run to where the shots are coming from, kids as young as seven, nine years old to see what is happening.”

But he said despite the danger, they’ll continue with the mural.

“We will not let them defeat us.”

Mokhachane spoke to City Press shortly after being discharged from Heideveld Hospital, and said the bullet was still in his leg “in front of my knee” as doctors didn’t yet want to remove it for fear of causing permanent damage.

He said when the attacker approached him, he pointed a gun at his chest and told him to be quiet.

But Mokhachane lunged for the gun and managed to wrestle it away, and that’s when the attacker's accomplice shot him.

“I just grabbed the gun, I was worried about the equipment. I didn’t realise there was another gun. There were two shots.”

Rodrigues said the public arts initiative involves local artists and activists giving their time and talent to a social movement and artistic commemoration of Marikana to highlight the plight of democracy in South Africa.

“It’s about defending our freedom of expression and rights to assemble and respecting human rights.”

The attack on our rights, she said, was occurring on a daily basis as illustrated “in this specific incident”.

“There are no safe spaces to be free citizens of South Africa. It’s a daily struggle. So in terms of the broader sociopolitical context, Marikana is happening everyday for somebody. It’s happened to us.”

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