News / Africa

South African Police, Striking Miners Engage in Shootout

Anita Powell
JOHANNESBURG — A strike at a South African platinum mine led to a deadly shootout between police and angry workers Thursday.  The number of casualties is still uncertain, but a union official reported up to 20 people may have been killed in the clash.

Armed and angry strikers gathered at South Africa’s troubled Lonmin platinum mine Thursday after days of unrest, and a confrontation with police soon turned into a gunbattle.

  • 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.
National Union of Mineworkers spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said officials were not entirely sure how many people were killed at the mine about 100 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg - one of the world's most important sources of platinum.

“At this … moment we don’t have the figures, but it looks like it may be something between 12 and 20 [dead],” Seshoka said.

A reporter from the South African Press Association said he counted 18 bodies on the ground.

The company Lonmin PLC, based in London, said some of the strikers were armed.  Union spokesman Seshoka said gunfire from the workers triggered the deadly battle, but he blamed the shooting on "criminals" among them, apparently from a rival union.

“The strikers fired first, and the police didn’t realize they were in danger, because anyway two police officers have already died in the past week,” Seshoka said.

Seshoka said the union regrets the violence, but he urged the police to take action only against those who engaged in violence.

Lonmin is one of the world's largest suppliers of platinum, and almost of its production comes from the mine where the clash occurred.

Exactly what happened before shooting began is not clear.  Angry protests at the mine have been under way since Friday, when 3,000 workers walked out over a pay dispute.

South Africa's ruling African National Congress condemned Thursday's violence, and noted that other incidents at the mine since Friday have killed 10 mineworkers.

The mine's owners say violence may have grown out of a conflict between the National Union of Mineworkers and a rival labor group, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.

The National Union of Mineworkers' Seshoka said workers at the Lonmin mine had been infiltrated by “criminals.”  

“We are told that in fact they wanted a 200-percent [increase], which is unlike them.  But they were influenced by a group of criminals to hold the country, as well as the mines, to ransom.  This is totally not acceptable,” Seshoka said.

Attempts to reach the ACMU were unsuccessful.  The rival labor group has been competing with the mineworkers' union for representation rights at many mines.

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

Lonmin said it has already lost six days' output from the mine, and will be unable to meet its production goal of 750,000 ounces of platinum this year.

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid