Cii News (Additional reporting: Timeslive, Sapa)
Pic: (Alon Skuy: The Times)
The speed at which people resort to violence to resolve disputes in South Africa is indeed alarming.
In the last week over 40 people have been killed following a longstanding wage dispute at the Lonmin Platinum Mine in the North West Province of South Africa.
At least 30 of these died after police opened fire with live ammunition on a group of armed miners stormed officers.
A cross section of political parties has called for an investigation into what has ended as South Africa’s darkest day since the end of apartheid.
The immediate dispute started last week Friday when 300 rock drillers staged an illegal protest. They have been demanding a salary increase from their current R3 000-R4 000 up to R12 500.
This protest turned violent resulting in the hacking to death of two police officers and the burning of two security guards by miners. Three miners were also killed as police defended themselves. A tenth person was found killed on Tuesday.
On Thursday, South African police spoke about a D-Day in resolving the issue and dispersing the 4000 miners who had taken up positions on a hillock armed with traditional weapons including spears, machetes as well as firearms.
Joseph Mtunjwa, the president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) was given a final opportunity to call on workers to lay down their weapons and return to work. The man who had been a favourite up until then was shunned and the stand-off continued, setting police into a new tactical phase.
The clearest video footage available thus far was made available courtesy of Aljazeera. After boxing the workers into an area surrounded by barbed-wire fence, police armoured vehicles closed in on the group. The demonstrators were given ten minutes to disperse. The video showed tear gas being fired into the crowd.
According to a report on the Timeslive website: “ The crowd instead formed a line and, crouching, struck their pangas and sharpened iron rods together to create a war beat. The line slowly advanced towards the police, crossing the barrier line the police had set up. The police opened fire when the strikers attacked an armoured Inyala. They first used stun grenades and rubber bullets – but when a striker was seen pulling out a shotgun and firing at the police, the police switched to live ammunition.”
The Aljazeera video footage also shows a police officer removing what looks like a handgun from the area where the miners collapsed.
President Jacob Zuma, who was in Mozambique for a SADC conference expressed his shock and dismay in a statement. He has decided to return home to deal with the matter personally.
“We are shocked and dismayed at this senseless violence. We believe there is enough space in our democratic order for any dispute to be resolved through dialogue without any breaches of the law or violence. We call upon the labour movement and business to work with government to arrest the situation before it deteriorates any further. I have instructed law enforcement agencies to do everything possible to bring the situation under control and to bring the perpetrators of violence to book. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of all who have lost their lives since the beginning of this violent action,” said President Zuma.
The current violence also has a messy history of disagreement between two rival unions. The longstanding National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has been challenged by Amcu, breakaway union formed by former NUM members.
Lesiba Sheshoka, the NUM spokesperson, denied that his union was involved in the violence. He blamed mine management who have refused to give comment following Thursday’s sad occurrences.
Tags: lonmin, marikana, massacre, Police, shooting, South Africa