Screen grab from the news site African Globe.
South Africans are still reeling from the news that police killed 34 striking miners on Thursday. Brutal footage of the incident, which shows police shooting dozens of live rounds at the protesters, has prompted many comparisons to apartheid-era violence. We asked several of our Observers in South Africa for their reactions.
Police claimed on Friday they were acting in self-defence
when they opened fire on strikers at Lonmin platinum mine, located near the city of Marikana. Miners had been on strike for the past week, demanding that their wages be tripled. On Thursday, hundreds of miners had gathered near the mine, some of them armed with machetes and other home-made weapons. When the police tried to disperse them, a group splintered off and charged. That’s when the shooting began.
On top of the 34 strikers killed, 78 were injured. Over the past week, 10 people had already died in conflicts between the two main unions representing Lonmin miners.
"I always thought that the Sharpeville massacre was history and it would never happen again. [Editor’s note: Police shot and killed 69 protesters in the township of Sharpeville on March 21, 1960. This date is now commemorated with a national holiday.] What we experienced yesterday under the democratic government was similar to Sharpeville,” said Joseph Mathunjwa, head of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, told French news agency AFP.
The ruling ANC party, as well as a broad spectrum of political parties, have deplored the bloodshed. Mineral mining is a thorny political issue in South Africa, where many feel this vast wealth is unequally distributed.