News / Africa

South African President Orders Probe Into Mine Shootings

Police look on as women carry placards in protest against the killing of miners by the South African police on Thursday, outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, 100 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg, August 17, 2012.
Police look on as women carry placards in protest against the killing of miners by the South African police on Thursday, outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, 100 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg, August 17, 2012.
Anita Powell
JOHANNESBURG — South African President Jacob Zuma has ordered an official inquiry into the police killing of 34 striking miners, the deadliest security operation in the country since the end of apartheid.

Zuma said he was "shocked and dismayed" at what he called "senseless violence."  

The president cut short a visit Friday to a regional summit in Mozambique and traveled to the mine in Marikana, northwest of Johannesburg. Zuma stopped short of saying who was responsible for the killings and urged unions to work with the government to address the situation.

South African police say 34 people were killed in a shootout between police and angry miners at a troubled platinum mine. But police, unions and the presidency have stopped short of saying who is at fault.

South Africa’s police commissioner on Friday visited the scene of a deadly shootout between police and strikers at the Lonmin platinum mine in the nation’s northwest.

A confrontration Thursday between striking miners and police turned into a gunbattle.

Police spokesman Capt. Dennis Adraio said Friday that in addition to the deaths, 78 people were wounded. Police have arrested 259 people.

South Africa's Mining Industry

  • Number of workers: 498,141
  • Industry deaths: 128
  • Key commodities mined: Diamonds, gold, platinum, palladium
  • Real mining GDP: $12.06 billion
  • Mineral exports: $36.25 billion

Source: Chamber of Mines of South Africa Figures for 2010
Adraio said police did everything they could to avert a shootout - and have video to prove it.

“The South African service national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega showed footage, which highlighted that police have exhausted all possible methods of crowd management using minimum force before having to resort to self-defense," said Adraio. "Methods of minimum force included the use of water cannons, tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets. The footage clearly shows how armed groups stormed through the police first line of defense, leaving the police with no other option but to use live ammunition as a last resort to protect themselves and conserve stability.”

South African President Jacob Zuma said in a statement that he was “shocked and dismayed at this senseless violence.”

But he stopped short of saying who was responsible, and called on unions to work with the government to address the situation and calm tensions.

Angry miners have protested at the mine for a week, after 3,000 workers walked out over a pay dispute. Some strikers have held signs demanding that monthly wages be tripled to about $1,500.

National Union of Mineworkers spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said Friday that part of the tension was sparked by workers’ decision to strike without union support.

“It can’t be right to have bargaining outside bargaining process because the bargaining processes had been concluded," said Seshoka. "So it would have have made more sense if they did not demand, but rather waited for the bargaining season to begin and then said to their leadership this is what we want now."

African Percent of World Production

  • Platinum Metals         54
  • Phosphate                 27
  • Gold                           20
  • Chromium                  40
  • Diamonds                  78

Source: UN
But Jeff Mphahlele, leader of the rival of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, said the workers’ demands were fair and that police should not have fired.

Adraio, the police spokesman, said authorities are investigating.

“I think it’s too early stages to start blaming specific groupings," he said. "I think the investigations are presently underway and we need to wait for the final investigations to be complete, for the process to take place."

Strikes are common in South Africa, which has a strong confederation of unions and a large pool of menial workers.  

The Lonmin mine is about 100 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg and is the source of the majority of the world’s platinum. Platinum prices spiked Thursday to close at a price of $1,435 for an ounce. Lonmin shares, however, dropped in London and Johannesburg.

The company says the dispute has cost six days’ worth of production, and the mine will not make its annual output goal.

About 3,000 people have walked off the job at the mine in the past week due to a pay dispute. Lonmin is the world's third-largest platinum producer.

<p><span class="article11"><i><span style="font-size: 7pt; line-height: 115%; font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;&quot;;">Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.</span></i></span></p>


  • An unidentified woman chants as she protests against the police opening fire and killing striking mine workers a day earlier at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, August 17, 2012.
  • Members of a South African police crime unit investigate the scene of the shooting of miners at the Lonmin mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, August 17, 2012.
  • An unidentified woman cries as she protests against the police opening fire and killing striking mine workers a day earlier at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, August 17, 2012.
  • A policeman fires at protesting miners outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, August 16, 2012.
  • Policemen fire at striking miners outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, August 16, 2012.
  • A miner runs as police shoot outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, August 16, 2012.
  • Policemen in teargas and dust open fire on striking miners at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, August 16, 2012.
  • Police open fire on striking miners at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, August 16, 2012.
  • A paramedic (front L) receives help from a policewomen as he tends to the injured after protesting miners were shot outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, August 16, 2012.

You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 3
 Previous   Next 
by: Bayou Crier from: Houston, Texas
August 17, 2012 6:20 PM
Only an an armed idiot would charge another man with a gun and expect that man not to defend himself.

by: Jakes
August 17, 2012 3:14 PM
WHY must a huge crowd of several thousand men, assemble with an assortment of deadly weapons on a hill singing war songs.
This was clearly an incitement to commit violence and storming the Police lines with deadly weapons, endangered the lives of those Policemen. The Government must introduce laws banning the carrying of such deadly weapons by demonstrators, which has become all to common and acceptable in South Africa and
endangers the lives of innocent people, including the Police, who
in this instance, lost two of their own members.


by: Cat M. from: Nevada
August 17, 2012 3:10 PM
34 dead is shameful and tragic, regardless of police "fear" - the point is their profession demands safety and caution for all.

by: workforlivn from: Loxley, AL
August 17, 2012 2:33 PM
A video I watched shows tear gas being fired into the protesters, the protesters running and the police firing into them with semi-auto fire. There may be other info not visible in the video but the police look cowardly in the video.

by: Ladarius from: USA
August 17, 2012 2:21 PM
Even the ill-informed should realize that when you display a weapon in front of the police, they shoot back.

by: Roger WIley from: England
August 17, 2012 2:21 PM
Actually 2 policemen were killed the previous day. And they recovered 6 pistols from the miners that were shot, including the pistol of one of the murdered cops. So how stupid are you Stewart making comments before you have all the facts.

by: Colin from: Scotland
August 17, 2012 2:01 PM
Self-defence? how stupid does Capt. Dennis Adraio think the worlds public are. Tell us Adraio, how many police were killed during this ‘self-defence’ exchange? Adraio said police did everything they could to avert a shootout, Tell us Adraio did your police try simply leaving the scene? In his faltering efforts to deny responsibility and evade any liability for the blood on his hands, Adraio has only succeeded in further polarising an already enraged and unjust standoff and bringing scorn and incredulity upon both himself and the South African Police. If the Lonmin Platinum Mine weren’t so greedy and indifferent towards the daily exploitation of their workers, but chose instead to share some of the millions they make off the sweat and tears of their miserably paid miners, then this pointless massacre by the South African Police and the senseless waste of life that’s resulted would never have happened.
In Response

by: Nortface4 from: US
August 17, 2012 2:22 PM
Two police were hacked to death by striking workers just days before. I don't think it's stretch to believe that these police were being attacked. From the pictures it's pretty clear that the workers were armed. Why were they carrying weapons if they had no intent of using them?

by: Doug from: Cleveland
August 17, 2012 2:00 PM
You can see in the video that a group of the miners we on the attack. They messed with the bull and got...
In Response

by: Mick from: Seattle
August 17, 2012 5:10 PM
As population outgrows job availability these events will be more common place. Everybody wants to feed their families, they will fight for there survival. This reminds me of the diamond industry.
Technology is absorbing jobs and making more profit for the corporations. Robotics, software, they could replace any person at this time. We now have cars that drive themselves to their destinations. We have robots that can build robots, and software that will soon make human intelligence obsolete. Right now blue collar jobs are declining the fastest, but nobody is entirely safe. I've heard that it follows Moore's Law; that as computers evolve, people will lose jobs to them.
Hey Stu!
In Response

by: Stu from: WA
August 17, 2012 2:49 PM
You would never say that to their families. You should be more respectful.
In Response

by: Gordon from: United Kingdom
August 17, 2012 2:22 PM
Tell me Doug from Cleveland if 78 of your friends were injured and 34 of them killed by state gunmen which direction would you run?

by: Phil Ewanicki from: U! S! A!
August 17, 2012 1:51 PM
The U.S.A. (Union of South Africa) police defend shooting 112 strikers, killing 34, was a legitimate exercise of the new Union of South Africa "Stand Your Ground" law, which is a duplicate of the National Rifle Association template [as is all Stand Your Ground legislation]. George Zimmerman describes the U.S.A. police volleys of gunfire as "colorful but perfectly legal."

by: Anonymous
August 17, 2012 1:31 PM
So how many police were killed by the "dangerous crowd"?
In Response

by: Anonymous
August 17, 2012 2:23 PM
There were two policemen killed
Comments page of 3
 Previous   Next 

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs