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Friday, 17 August 2012

10 Deaths a Minute in Shootout

At least 30 minors involved in an illegal strike near Lonmin in Rustenburg were killed in 3 minutes of panic after they rushed a team of riot police with pangas, sticks, clubs and firearms. This happened soon after a Bill was passed by the Council of Provinces allowing the police to use deadly form in instances where suspects are believed to be involve din the commission of violent crime which includes public violence.

WARNING: The video below contains graphic images




Well there you have it folks - Police have been accused of a massacre after opening fire on mine workers in one of the deadliest days of protest in South Africa since the end of apartheid. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/16/south-african-police-shoot-striking-miners

In scenes that evoked memories of some of the country's darkest days, national television showed pictures of  police in helmets and body armour shooting at workers on Thursday amid shouting, panic and clouds of dust at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine. After three minutes of gunfire, bodies littered the ground in pools of blood. The South African police ministry said more than 30 striking miners had been killed.

Newspaper reporter Poloko Tau tweeted from the scene: "Auto guns creacking [sic] and cocked like 100 at a time, scary ... warzone down here, 1st shot fired ... journalist running, diving and hiding amid shots, water canon spewing water at the strikers ... my contact has just been shot dead ..."

The deaths came after a week of turmoil at the Marikana mine that had already seen 10 people killed, including two police officers and two security guards. Lonmin, the world's third biggest platinum producer, was forced to suspend production at the mine, about 60 miles north-west of Johannesburg, after what it called an illegal strike escalated into an alleged turf war between rival unions.

South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, condemned the killings but made no reference to the handling of the situation by the police. "We are shocked and dismayed at this senseless violence," he said. "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.

The opposition called for an independent investigation. Helen Zille, leader of the Democratic Alliance, said: "We call on union leaders, the police and everyone else involved to immediately work towards a de-escalation of the conflict. All action must be taken to avoid further bloodshed.

"An urgent independent investigation is required to determine exactly what happened; and who is responsible for this massacre. The families of everyone involved, and indeed the nation, deserve to know how and why this bloodshed occurred."

Roger Phillimore, the chairman of Lonmin, said: "We are treating the developments around police operations  this afternoon with the utmost seriousness. The South African police service have been in charge of public order and safety on the ground since the violence between competing labour factions erupted over the weekend, claiming the lives of eight of our employees and two police officers.

"It goes without saying that we deeply regret the further loss of life in what is clearly a public order rather than labour relations associated matter."

The violence reportedly flared when police laying out barricades of barbed wire were outflanked by some of an estimated 3,000 miners massed on a rocky outcrop near the mine. Witnesses claimed that some of the miners were armed with pistols and fired first, while also charging the police with machetes and sticks.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said: "According to a Sapa report, police tried to disperse striking workers gathered on top of a hill, wielding pangas and chanting war songs. It ended in a three-minute shootout between the two groups, after police fired teargas and then used a water cannon to disperse the strikers, who retaliated by firing live ammunition at the police."

The protests began last week when workers demanded a pay increase to 12,500 rand (£976) a month. The action turned deadly when the AMCU clashed with South Africa's dominant National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

UPDATE:  National police commissioner Riah Phiyega has stated that the death toll has reached 34 with roughly 78 injured. 259 people have been arrested and 6 firearms recovered. 

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