News / Africa

    Thousands Mourn South Africa Mine Shooting Victims

    Mining community gathers at a hill dubbed the 'Hill of Horror' during a memorial service for miners killed during clashes at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine in Rustenburg, 100 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa, August 23, 2012.Mining community gathers at a hill dubbed the 'Hill of Horror' during a memorial service for miners killed during clashes at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine in Rustenburg, 100 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa, August 23, 2012.
    x
    Mining community gathers at a hill dubbed the 'Hill of Horror' during a memorial service for miners killed during clashes at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine in Rustenburg, 100 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa, August 23, 2012.
    Mining community gathers at a hill dubbed the 'Hill of Horror' during a memorial service for miners killed during clashes at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine in Rustenburg, 100 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa, August 23, 2012.
    Anita Powell
    JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Thousands of grieving families, miners, union and government officials gathered Thursday at a troubled platinum mine in South Africa to mourn 34 striking miners killed by police.

    Mourners assembled on the dusty plain outside the Lonmin mine that has been nicknamed “South Africa’s killing fields.”

    They were there to remember friends, relatives and coworkers who were shot dead by police on that spot a week earlier, on August 16.

    Local church leader Daniel Modisenyane attended Thursday's service and said it was grave, but calm. He estimated that some 6,000 people attended.

    Modisenyane said the community will struggle to deal with the loss.

    “It was not possible for them to forget since this drew global attention to what has happened, since they were all hurt, we could not know how to comfort each of them. They were so hurt, they were so traumatized,” said Modisenyane.

    Workers at the mine went on strike for higher wages earlier this month. Growing tension and unrest culminated in last Thursday’s incident.  In all, 44 people, including two policemen, have died on this spot in a week of violence.

    South African President Jacob Zuma declared a national week of mourning. Flags are flying at half-staff around the country. The government also has ordered an investigation.

    Lonmin issued a message to striking workers Monday: Get back to work, or you’re fired. The mine operators later softened that stance, extended the deadline and have enlisted religious leaders to oversee talks with striking workers.

    Lonmin said Thursday it would allow all of its workers - there are about 28,000 at the mine some 100 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg - to attend the service.
     
    The company also said it held a minute of silence Thursday morning and that it has set up a bank account to help the families of the dead.

    Lonmin Chairman Roger Phillimore said the shooting incident was “unquestionably the saddest loss in the history of this company.” He said the company leadership is grieving and offered condolences to families.

    Mining is one of South Africa’s biggest industries. The events at the mine have had international consequences and have affected global platinum prices and Lonmin share prices.

    The event also has shaken South Africans who say such violent images of police firing at protesters remind them of the apartheid era.

    Church leader Modisenyane said he hopes Thursday’s service will promote reconciliation. He said he will encourage people to forgive.

    “It is so important because this will cause them bitterness inside each of them, this will cause them stress, this will cause them another life to come out of this world," said Modisenyane. "So they need to forgive. Since the one who will enable them is the one we are comforting them about: God, no other one.”

    Wage negotiations continue between the mining company and striking workers.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    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.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora