Outrage As Miners Die In ‘Massacre’ at Marikana
The week long illegal strike at the Lonmin PLC mine in Marikana worsened on Thursday as police opened fire and killed 25 protesters. The footage viewed around the world has caused outrage and many have likened it to the massacres of the apartheid era.
The final death toll of 25 was announced on Friday Morning, bringing the total number of people killed at the mine during the strike to 35, two of whom were members of the police force. African National Congress spokesman Jackson Mthembu said, “All of us feel very saddened by the violence we have seen on television,” before adding that it needs to be determined who had caused the confrontation.
The tragedy began as a police operation to disperse 3,000 protesting drill operators gathered near the mine. It soon evolved into a standoff between the heavily armed SAPS tactical response and the national intervention units, and members of the Association for Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), many carrying machetes and sticks.
The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Democratic Alliance (DP) and African People’s Convention have all called for an inquiry into the police’s seemingly heavy-handed actions.
IFP justice spokesman Mario Oriani-Ambrosini said, ““We call on the president to order a full, expedited and independent investigation of whether police action was justified, proportional and necessary under the circumstances.”
President Jacob Zuma has expressed shock over the events at the mine and said that he has instructed law enforcement agencies to do everything possible to bring the situation under control and “bring the perpetrators of violence to book.”
The shootout lasted a total of three minutes; however it is unclear whether it was the police or armed protesters who fired first. In the wake of the event, accusations flew furiously and Amcu leaders accused the police of a massacre.
Institute a Full Inquiry
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa’s office extended its sympathies to the families of the victims. Spokesman Zweli Mnisi said, “The minister is now considering requesting the president to institute a full inquiry, not just around what happened today but holistically at this situation.”
Mnisi added, “Now what should police do in such situations when clearly what they are faced with are armed and hardcore criminals who murder police?” Police initially tried to disperse the crowd using water cannons and tear gas, both of which proved ineffective according to Mnisi. “We had a situation where people who were armed to the teeth, attacked and killed others even police officers and, for the record, one of the firearms used was that of our deceased police officer.
He finished his statement by saying, “What happened is something that was unfortunate and should not have happened in post-democracy South Africa because to protest is a legal and constitutional right of any citizen.”
Chanting and the singing of liberation songs from an informal settlement near the mine went on well into the night, but police were keeping watch of the situation.