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South Africa Commemorates Marikana Platinum Mine Deaths

South Africa is holding commemorations to mark the deaths of 44 people killed during a wage-related strike at a platinum mine in Marikana last year, according to Aljazeera.com.

Reports said workers at the Lonmin platinum plant who want to take part in Friday’s activities will be permitted to do so, but would forfeit a day’s pay.

The victims, 34 of them miners from the platinum mine in the North-West province, were shot and killed by police in a crackdown reminiscent of the apartheid-era police brutality. Seventy-eight people were injured in the violence.

Police said they opened fire on the miners in self-defense, Al-Jazeera reports.

The killing of the 34 miners was preceded by the deaths of 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards.

The strike began on Aug. 10, 2012,  when Lonmin rock drillers pressed demands for a monthly salary of $1,251.

More workers joined the strike and the protesters gathered at a hill near Nkaneng informal settlement, carrying weapons, such as pangas, spears, knobkerries, and iron rods, according to the Sowetan newspaper.

Justice Denied a year after Marikana

The Guardian reports:

“A year on, democratic South Africa is confronting its darkest day, re-watching television pictures that show workers hurtling forward like a rolling ball of humanity, while flak-jacketed police retreat and unleash a furious, crackling rain of bullets. When the clouds of dust settled, 34 men lay dead. One, on his knees, flailed and toppled over in front of the cameras, his last moments revealed to his wife.

“The disaster drew comparisons with the Sharpeville massacre of 1960 and the 1976 Soweto uprising, but this has been bitterly described as the first ‘democratic massacre.’

“The police were serving a black majority government and defending the interests of London-based mining company Lonmin in the world’s richest platinum belt. ‘Never did we believe that our government would turn their guns on our people in such a brutal and callous fashion,’ said the Markana massacre anniversary organizing committee, on the workers’ behalf.

“There was demand for reform, perhaps even revolution in one of the world’s most unequal societies. Yet, to date no police officer has been charged, labor relations are in crisis and killings continue in Marikana. There is simmering frustration at justice denied and fear of more bloodshed. Twelve months after this ‘turning point’ in modern South African history, the prevailing view is that nothing has changed.”

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