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South Africa Blames Police for 2012 Miner Killings

  • Anita Powell
  • Lameck Masina

FILE - A miner returns from his shift in Nkaneng township outside the Lonmin mine in Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg, June 26, 2015.

FILE - A miner returns from his shift in Nkaneng township outside the Lonmin mine in Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg, June 26, 2015.

South Africa's president has released a long-awaited report on the police-led killing of 34 striking miners in 2012. The report blames police officials, but largely excuses the nation's leadership..

On August 16, 2012, police opened fire on striking miners in the town of Marikana, killing 34 of them.

Zuma blame police

Now, South African President Jacob Zuma has laid blame for the shootings squarely on those who fired the fatal bullets: South Africa's police force.

In a televised appearance Thursday night, Zuma said a commission of inquiry found that the police operation was based on a flawed tactical plan.

“The Commission has found that it would have been impossible to disarm and disperse the strikers without significant bloodshed‚ on the afternoon of the 16th of August. The police should have waited until the following day‚ when the original encirclement plan‚ which was substantially risk free‚ could have been implemented,” he said.

The report faulted police leadership for misleading the commission by saying they made the decision to proceed with the plan a day before the shooting.

Instead‚ the report says, the police actually decided to use lethal force on the day of the incident and only after the situation had escalated.

Accusations against Ramaphosa groundless

The report also absolved South African Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa, who at the time was a member of the board of the mining company, Lonmin, from accusations that he was in some way responsible for the death of 34 miners.

The commission had revealed that Ramaphosa sent an email to Lonmin management and government officials in which he said the events around the strike were "plainly dastardly criminal acts and must be characterized as such."

"The Commission has found that it cannot be said that Ramaphosa was the cause of the massacre‚ and the accusations against him are groundless," said Zuma.

Zuma said the report has recommended an inquiry into the national police commissioner and the provincial police commissioner.

Analyst Gareth Newham, who heads the Governance, Crime and Justice division of the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, says Zuma should suspend the national police commissioner immediately.

"It is very important that the hardworking police men and women, who try to do their very best under very difficult circumstances to improve community safety and fight crime in our country, are able to look upwards at their commanders,” Newham said. “And from evidence before the Marikana commission we know that the current leadership of South African Police Service are not consisting of such people."

There has been no immediate reaction from the mining unions.

But the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters party, Julius Malema, told a local radio station that he is “completely flabbergasted” by the findings of the report, given that the ruling ANC political leadership was exonerated.

He said he will have to come up with a strategy to ensure those in power are held responsible for the massacre.

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