Johannesburg – An attempt by the police on Thursday to disperse striking workers at Lonmin’s troubled Marikana platinum mine ended in a deadly shootout between the two groups that claimed several lives.
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa addressed workers in the morning and said he was seeking a meeting with management to discuss their wage demands.
A few hours later, he returned to the hill that the strikers had used as their base for the past few days and said management refused to meet the union.
Minutes later, the shooting started. Firearms were discharged on both sides, and the shooting lasted for at least two minutes.
A South African Press Association reporter said he counted 18 bodies on the ground at the nearby Wonderkop squatter camp, although this figure had still not been confirmed by police by early evening.
Ten people — two police officers, two security guards, three protesters and three other men — had already been killed since the strike at the world’s third-largest platinum miner began at the weekend.
On Thursday, police had tried to intercept a group of strikers gathered on top of the hill who were wielding pangas and chanting war songs.
Officers fired tear gas and then used a water cannon to disperse the strikers, who retaliated by firing live ammunition. The strikers scattered towards the squatter camp and the nearby veld.
Police spokesman Capt Dennis Adriao told journalists at the scene that police had been “tactical” in their approach and that the situation was tense.
Mr Mathunjwa told e.tv late on Thursday that the protesters were a mix of Amcu members and unaffiliated members who sympathised with the union’s complaints…
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