Asanda Benya wins Ruth First Prize

21 Jul 2016 - 08:15
Photo by Asanda Benya: Marikana women with government officials and the media, 12 August 2014


Asanda Benya, who lectures in the Sociology Department, has been awarded the 2015 Ruth First Prize for her article "The Invisible Hands: Women in Marikana.” The prize is awarded annually for the best article published by an African author in the Review of African Political Economy (ROAPE).

According to the prize committee: "This article provides an extremely rich and original analysis of the Marikana strikes and their aftermath by focusing on the role and experiences of women, mainly the partners of the miners. This analysis is very well supported by theoretical literature making a strong case for a broader gendered analysis of political economy which includes the realm of social reproduction as integral to understanding the social and political dynamics of capitalist society and crisis and class struggle. The paper integrates rich concrete detail with theoretical insight admirably, arguing convincingly that the role and experiences of women in this context and struggle goes beyond participation in the domestic sphere or reproductive labour but inserts them integrally within the broader social relations of production/reproduction such that they also develop a strong political consciousness and feel very much internal to and part of rather than external supporters of the miners’ struggle. The analysis brings the situation and struggle to life in a vivid way, and also clearly situates the condition and processes within Marikana and the formal and informal settlements within South Africa and the region’s broader post-apartheid political economy.”

The prize means that her article has been made free to download on the Taylor and Francis website until 30 June 2017.


When we think of Marikana we think of the infamous event that took place on 16 August 2012, leading to the death of 34 striking miners. Scholarly analysis takes this further than the event to broader labour–capital relations. While useful, the examination of Marikana through this lens tends to privilege the production sphere and lends itself mainly to the exploration of the workplace; the workers, their employers and the union. In this article, the author argues that exclusive reliance on this lens is inadequate and inevitably results in many silences, one of which is the silencing of the reproduction sphere and, by extension, women. To fully understand Marikana the event, one has to understand Marikana the location, and hence realities and conditions on the ground. Such an analysis of Marikana is not only useful because it sheds light on the reproduction space, but also because it allows us to look at women who are usually ignored when talking about mines.