South Africa’s Police Open Fire on Striking Miners: The Video

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AP

Police open fire on miners at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012. Police said the miners had refused an ultimatum to disarm, and had resisted efforts to disperse them through firing tear gas and water cannon. Video footage shows the strikers charging towards the police, who are then shown firing wildly into the crowd

Updated: Aug. 17, 2012 at 7:40 a.m. EST

South African police opened fire on a crowd of striking miners on Thursday, killing 34 people and leaving a field strewn with bodies in a massacre that instantly revived memories of the brutality of apartheid. At a press conference Friday, the South African Police Service claimed its officers had been under attack by a group of miners armed with machetes, spears and clubs when they opened fire with automatic weapons into a crowd a few meters away. They added that 78 strikers had been injured and 259 arrested.

Regardless of whether the police were provoked, the shooting of demonstrators automatically invoked memories of massacres of protesters carried out by South African forces under apartheid, which ended in 1994. Calling for the suspension of all police officers involved pending charges of murder and/or culpable homicide, the independent think-tank, the South African Institute for Race Relations, said television reports clearly showed “that policemen randomly shot into the crowd with rifles and handguns. There is also evidence of their continuing to shoot after a number of bodies can be seen dropping and others turning to run.” Referring to the security services’ notorious killing of 69 anti-apartheid protesters in March 1960, it added: “This is reminiscent of the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. What happened at Lonmin is completely unacceptable.”

While not agreeing, the country’s political leadership expressed horror at the police action. Mac Maharaj, spokesman for South African President Jacob Zuma, said the head of state was “in shock that an industrial dispute has degenerated to such a point, to such a tragic loss of lives.” In a later statement, Zuma added: “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.” Lonmin chairman Roger Phillimore said in a written statement: “We deeply regret the further loss of life in what is clearly a public order rather than labor-relations-associated matter.”

(PHOTOS: In South Africa, Police Fire on Striking Mine Workers)

Lonmin, the world’s third largest producer of platinum, shut down its South African operations on Tuesday after 3,000 workers walked out a week ago, demanding a tripling of wages. Before Thursday’s killings, the strike at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana in northern South Africa had already claimed 10 lives, including those of two policemen and two security personnel, in clashes sparked by the rivalry between two rival unions, the National Union of Mineworkers and the more radical Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).

The AMCU’s emergence is a symptom of the smoldering and sometimes violent discontent in South Africa’s townships, where anger runs high at the corruption of Zuma’s African National Congress (ANC) government and its establishment union allies, their failure to alleviate poverty and the continued white domination of the economy. Every week sees a fresh “service delivery” protest erupt in a different parts of South Africa. In July, Helen Zille, premier of the Western Cape province and head of the opposition Democratic Alliance party, asked Zuma to deploy the army to the Cape Flats, the sprawling township outside Cape Town that is home to millions, after 23 people, including seven children, were killed in gang shootings. A war between rival gangs over territory and the illegal drug trade were the immediate cause. But the violence has its roots in widespread economic deprivation: most available jobs in the Flats rarely extend beyond casual, manual labor that pays as little as $10 a day. Coupled to that, many poor South Africans have little hope that their grievances can be addressed legitimately when faced with a political system that, though ostensibly a democracy, is so dominated by a single political party — a legacy of its victory over apartheid under the towering leadership of Nelson Mandela — that the ANC can seem all but unaccountable to its electorate.

Some in the ANC do understand this. On Wednesday, presenting a revised national plan to Parliament, which, in a nation of close to 50 million people, called for the creation of 11 million jobs by 2030, Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel warned of a “huge chasm” between today’s South Africa and one where poverty and hunger are eliminated. Around 40% of the country survived on an income of 432 rands ($52.30) or less per month, he said. “Without faster progress, there is a real chance that South Africa could slide backwards [as] dealing with the immense challenges overwhelms our capacity to succeed,” he added. Setting out a series of targets and milestones for government, Manuel said, “We’re aware we will not hit all of these, but all of us need a consciousness of how wide off the mark we actually are.” Whether the likes of Manuel can succeed in turning the South African government into an entity truly willing and capable of addressing the needs of its people is open to question, however. As Manuel admitted to reporters outside Parliament: “Our weakness is implementation.”

30 comments
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SkylarAce
SkylarAce

 The world holds on to a countries past longer than the actual country

involved does. Apartheid has nothing to do with this unfortunate event.

Why does that even have to be brought up? This was unfortunate and

violent but this is a very different issue than fighting for freedom and

equality. This was about money and the lengths those without it are

willing to go to in order to obtain it.

SkylarAce
SkylarAce

The world holds on to a countries past longer than the actual country involved does. Apartheid has nothing to do with this unfortunate event. Why does that even have to be brought up? This was unfortunate and violent but this is a very different issue than fighting for freedom and equality. This was about money and the lengths those without it are willing to go to in order to obtain it.

Jeffrey Geez Glavick
Jeffrey Geez Glavick

Regardless of whether the police were provoked?, the miners were armed and ready to fire, that is provocative regardless or not.

B
B

They were not "striking mineworkers" they were "an armed and attacking mob of mineworkers".

JohnMarais
JohnMarais

I don't blame the police, those miners were armed and violent, obviously it is regretable, but is about time that the hooligans are shown that they can't always just get more and more and use strikes and violence to do it!

saexpat
saexpat

To kill so many people is wrong, the police could have handled this in a better way!

Garzhad
Garzhad

 How exactly? By lying down and letting them hack them to pieces? Idiot.

saexpat
saexpat

garzhad have you heard of rubber bullets? Have you heard of tear gas? By giving the police live amo its only purpose is to kill you dim wit!!

dylan25
dylan25

 12 500 rand is not too much to ask for, if you think about it! ( 12500= 1500 dollars)

food itself for a family of four cost between 5000-6000 rand a month! Then there is bills to pay as well! If strikes are the only way to get the peoples attention then why not? Strikes dont necessarily mean violence, they just follow by example! If one person takes up a weapon, what do you think the rest will do?

 

Hester Ferrezuelo
Hester Ferrezuelo

Yes Dylan25 you are right it is not much money, but if that is what people are earning after they get a degree, e.g. teachers, then it is a lot of money.  Unfortunately SA is sitting with a president that costs tax payers billions of rands and has the morals of .......   - ultimately, point is, you live by the sword, you die by the sword.  Simple.

B
B

 If I'm in a demonstration and someone takes up a weapon, I go the other way.

Puleng Mosholi
Puleng Mosholi

"More and more"; what exactly is it you feel strikers are gettting so much of? It's definately not increasingly safer working conditions or livable wages...

The violence and distruction that comes with South African industrial action is WRONG, and inexcusable.

The way the mining industry exploits miners is inexcusable.

For SAPS to open fire, with automatic weapons, on a crowd armed with inferior wepons is deplorable. Clearly, SAPS needs riot training and they need to explain what happened and hold people accountable.

 The unions, who are encouraging violent behavior among their members must also be held accountable by the SA justice system. They are running amok and need to reigned in.

The mining industry needs to be held accountable for their exploitation of workers, frankly, the way they operate is morally criminal.

my_say2012
my_say2012

Yes, this is inhumane and terrible, but there are always two sides of the story - a few days ago at the same site, two guards have been burned alive and two cops have been hacked to death with pangas. This is also brutal and at some stage police have to defend themselves in some way against the thousands of strikers. The root of the problem is not the violence of the police or the violence of the strikers.

NiceTrip
NiceTrip

10 people dead.2 cops,2 guards,and what about the rest 6?

How do U think why the 1000 have weapons in their hands?

NiceTrip
NiceTrip

10 people dead.2 cops,2 guards,and what about the rest 6?

How do U think why the miners have weapons in their hands?

NiceTrip
NiceTrip

10 people dead.2 cops,2 guards,and what about the rest 6?

How do U think why the 1000 have weapons in their hands?

NiceTrip
NiceTrip

Didn't U C the report?

10 people dead,two are police,two are the guards what about the rest six?

U are making comments without thinking.

NiceTrip
NiceTrip

Didn't U C the report?

10 people dead,two are police,two are the guards what about the rest six?

U are making comments without thinking.

dylan25
dylan25

 Yes I do see your points, and I agree with you! I do believe that death could of been prevented if our police officers had not used live fire arms. Rubber bullets would of sufficed, and maybe riot shields and tear gas. I could see in the videos, that most of the police men there were patrol officers. Most of them have never trained for riot protests. That could be the case of opening fire to early. My point being, that there should have been more riot police present than patrol officers.

B
B

 It is never a good idea to assault the police, any time, anywhere.

dylan25
dylan25

My Nationality is South African, and i am ashamed to call myself that now! What these police officers did, in my eyes are inhumane! This is what our country has come to now...what next?

Charlie Brown
Charlie Brown

This is why I shall never give up my right to own weapons. I may have to use them against our government yet. Long live the 2nd amendment. 

NiceTrip
NiceTrip

U can have Ur guns while Ur goverment has missiles.

NiceTrip
NiceTrip

U can have Ur guns while Ur goverment has missiles.

NiceTrip
NiceTrip

U can have Ur guns while Ur goverment has missiles.

NiceTrip
NiceTrip

U can have Ur guns while Ur goverment has missiles.

Jeffrey Geez Glavick
Jeffrey Geez Glavick

The miners had weapons, and? Ps. You have the right to own a weaponfor defense or sport, but leave the assault weapon, bazookas, hand grenades etc out of that right.

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

Really sad.

The miners as usual barely getting by.

Looks like the government could afford plenty of guns to kill the slave uprising though.

Guess we know where the Platinum is going.

Not much has changed in South Africa.