It’s been more than two days since South African police opened fire on a group of striking platinum miners, killing 34 of them, yet many family members still haven’t been informed of the fate of their relatives who worked at the mine.
The result is much confusion and considerable anger, producing scenes of women slogging to hospitals and morgues, trying to find out what happened to their husbands, brothers and fathers.
In addition to the murders, at least 78 people were injured and more than 200 people arrested, meaning that there would be over 300 men who did not return to their families. The police and the management of the mine have not produced a central register of the dead and injured, leaving the families to fend for themselves, putting them through two days of torturous wondering and praying.
A police spokesman said efforts were being made to contact families, but it would take time, according to the BBC. The mine is in a town called Marikana, and is owned by Lonmin.
There is still a lack of information about exactly what happened at the mine, but some details are starting to emerge from eyewitness reports. Apparently a group of demonstrators rushed at a line of police officers who were armed with automatic rifles and pistols. In response, the officers opened fire with a barrage of dozens of shots.
South African President Jacob Zuma announced that there would be an inquiry into the incident, which he called tragic.
“I am convinced that the Commission of Inquiry will uncover the truth and facts will emerge,” he said in a statement after meeting police and injured workers.
Police spokesman Captain Dennis Adriao said officers were using the mine’s database to contact the families of those killed, injured or arrested.
The mining killings have led to soul-searching across the nation, with newspaper front pages screaming headlines like “Bloodbath,” “Killing Field” and “Mine Slaughter.”
During the apartheid era, there were scenes of mass killings that shocked the nation and the world and ramped up the pressure to end apartheid. Hundreds of students were killed in 1976 during the Soweto uprisings, more than 50 people were killed in 1960 during the Sharpeville massacre. Now the nation will have to add the platinum mining massacre to the list—leading a major South African newspaper to question what has changed since the end of apartheid 18 years ago.