Raisethefist.com: South Africa shocked by police shootings
South Africa shocked by police shootings
by anonymous Sat Aug 18 23:01:05 PDT 2012
The headlines Friday in South Africa spoke of a bloodbath, of war.
The morning after carnage at a platinum mine, South Africans grappled with shock, memories of an ugly era resurrected in their minds. The word apartheid surfaced again as people debated the need for such police force.
The police, meanwhile, explained themselves at a news conference, giving reporters the grim toll: 34 mine workers killed, 78 others wounded, 259 arrested on various charges, including malicious damage to property, armed robbery, illegal gathering and possession of weapons. That according to Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega.
She said police "were forced to utilize maximum force to defend themselves."
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Shootings prompt dismay and outrage
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South Africa mine killings
South African President Jacob Zuma cut short a trip to Mozambique to visit the scene of the shootings Friday afternoon. He announced the government will open an inquiry of the incident.
He told South Africans that they must come together to overcome national challenges as they had done before.
"This is not a day to apportion blame," Zuma said. "It is a day for us to mourn together as a nation. It is also a day to start healing."
Mourn, yes, but also a time to think about what had been done, some cried.
"African lives cheap as ever," read a headline in a Soweto newspaper.
It editorialized that South Africa's economic woes do require a war. "But a different kind of war -- a war of ideas. Not a war that dispenses with human life in as cheaply a manner as we have seen in Marikana."
The tragedy began unfolding a week ago when miners went on strike demanding pay hikes at the mine near Rustenburg, about two hours northwest of Johannesburg.
They were rock drillers who worked at the dangerous depths of the mine, their bodies vibrating for the duration of their eight-hour shifts.
"When there is a rock fall, it is generally the drillers who are the victims," wrote journalist Greg Marinovich in the Daily Maverick newspaper. "It is the most dangerous job in the business."
The miners, who earned $300 to $500 a month, wanted their salaries raised to $1,500.
It came as no surprise that their multi-national employer, Lonmin, said no to the whopping increase. The world's third-largest producer of platinum said the strike was illegal.
The larger problem, however, went beyond a wage dispute.
It had to do with a vicious rivalry between two unions -- the dominant and established National Union of Mineworkers and the splinter Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union which has been encroaching on the former's role.
What's behind the Marikana massacre?
The National Union of Mineworkers is a close ally of the country's ruling African National Congress. The miners, according to several South African media outlets, feel they are not adequately represented by the battling unions. They say politics gets in the way and that each union vies for miners' support and yet they don't always seek their best interests.
In January, at least three people were killed during a strike at the world's second-largest platinum mine, Impala Platinum. The violence there, too, was blamed on union rivalry.
The two unions, accused of trying to outdo each other in negotiating wages, denied instigating the clashes.
Tensions at Marikana had mounted throughout the week.
The striking miners carried traditional panga machetes and gathered Thursday around a small hill. Police carried anti-riot equipment and encircled the protesting workers.
By then, at least 10 other people were dead from incidents that had occurred in the days before. Among them were two police officers who were hacked to death.
Journalists who were at Marikana said police seemed fed up with the miners and determined to resolve the issue.