News / Africa

    South Africa Mine Shooting Could Spell Political Woes

    Police look on as women protest against the killing of miners by South African police on Thursday, outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, August 17, 2012.Police look on as women protest against the killing of miners by South African police on Thursday, outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, August 17, 2012.
    x
    Police look on as women protest against the killing of miners by South African police on Thursday, outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, August 17, 2012.
    Police look on as women protest against the killing of miners by South African police on Thursday, outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, August 17, 2012.
    Anita Powell
    JOHANNESBURG — South Africa is just beginning to come to grips with the consequences of a deadly clash between police and striking workers at a platinum mine. Observers and politicians say the incident last Thursday, in which police shot and killed 34 people, could cause political turmoil - and some soul-searching.  

    When South African police shot and killed dozens of angry, protesting miners last week, two political leaders rushed to the scene.

    Predictably, one of them was President Jacob Zuma.

    The other was Julius Malema, a disgraced firebrand youth leader who has been expelled from the ruling African National Congress - but whose radical, militant comments about the incident could spell political trouble for the party.

    Adam Habib, an analyst at the University of Johannesburg, says Malema correctly understood the shooting of striking workers at the Lonmin platinum mine for what it is: a political crisis. He says he doubts it will affect the outcome of next year’s presidential race, but that it will have an impact.

    “I do think it will have dramatic political impacts, and in particular I think it’s going to provoke a kind of existential crisis in South Africa, about where they are and what a society this has become," he said. "It also suggests that the kind of culture, macho culture, of aggressiveness and shoot-to-kill that has been popularized by the police and Jacob Zuma himself when he came to power, has had some very, very destructive effects.”

    • 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.


    The shooting is exactly the kind of thing Malema has been warning South Africa about for years: an angry, impoverished underclass rising up against its rich masters, with deadly consequences.

    It has also prompted Malema to call on Zuma to resign.

    Malema however is a bit of a contradiction.
    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

    Despite his proletarian talk about the need for a more militant miners union, he lives in Johannesburg’s ritziest suburb.  As he advocates for miners to be paid about $18,000 a year, he has said he owes the government 27 million rand - that’s nearly $5 million - in taxes.

    Malema’s representative did not respond to requests for comment.

    South Africa is an economically-divided society.  Expensive Maseratis cruise the streets of Johannesburg alongside tattered Toyota minibuses crammed with passengers.  The nation is the world’s largest producer of platinum.  Yet millions of poor South Africans live without basic services like water and electricity, and more than half of the population lives below the poverty line.

    Ishmael Mnisi of the ANC says the ruling party is trying not to place blame.  He said the public has not expressed a loss of faith in the party, and criticized Malema for speaking out.

    “Well, we’re not going to talk about the utterances of Julius Malema.  They are just unfortunate that a former leader of the ANC Youth League would utter such statements and shift blame for his own political understandings and manipulation," he said.  "This is a serious matter.  This is not an issue where people must play cheap politics on it."

    Mnisi says ruling party leaders have accepted that they need to do more to address inequality.

    “These are still challenges that South Africans face daily," he said.  "And we have acknowledged that as the ANC, and the ANC and government have to do more to make sure that we change this [circumstance] and empower our people on all the fronts.  We have also made an acknowledgement that there is more that needs to be done on the economic front in order for all the people of our country to enjoy the benefits of democracy.  And we think we have not moved much as far as that is concerned.”

    South Africa is now observing a week of mourning, as striking workers at the Lonmin mine decide whether to return back to work or face being fired.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Judge of Facts
    August 23, 2012 2:44 PM
    Absurd that people with no experience of such situations on the ground know how to resolve such matters and criticize the Police. The Unions and Government have long condoned the carrying of dangerous weapons during protest actions, for many years, contributing to dangerous volatility, let alone loss of lives of those, who chose to work. The history of Union strikes needs to be published with a schedule of inncocent lives lost and costs to the economy overall - then all can SEE

    by: rastaman from: kingston
    August 22, 2012 10:41 AM
    the reason for inequality in south africa is because mr zuma and the anc refuse to do the riht thing seize the mines ,money,and the land from the whites, and then you see south africa move forword that is the only way and no other way the anc is an impotent organization I was one who was marching in london to end aparthieh and now to see this argonization now it hurts to see the anc did not ment what they were saying to represent the south african in claiming their country what kind of party is this if they are not care ful they will create a situtation worst than zimbabwe it woul be in te the interest of the europeans that living in south africa if the anc does what it was elected to do and stop the foot dragging

    by: josie from: california
    August 21, 2012 9:12 PM
    see this is what happens when police think they are so big and bad they think they can do whatever they want
    In Response

    by: alfred from: france
    August 22, 2012 11:58 AM
    see that what happens when syndicat goes on strike with machete

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.