'SA massacre avoidable'

JOHANNESBURG - North West Premier Thandi Modise has condemned the “anarchy” which culminated in a shoot-out between police and striking workers at Lonmin’s Marikana Mine.

“Survival of the fittest, anarchy and lawlessness should not characterise wage negotiations in the mining sector,” she said in a statement yesterday.

“This is the most tragic labour dispute with untold misery that South Africa has ever experienced, which could have been avoided had parties involved respected the law.”

Police moved in on protesters encamped on a hill near the mine on Thursday, after days of negotiations.

According to National Union of Mineworkers (Num) general secretary Frans Baleni, 36 people were killed. The police ministry confirmed that “over 30” people died.

Another 10 people, including police officers and security guards, have been killed since protests at the mine began last Friday.

The protests were believed to be linked to rivalry between the Num and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) over recognition agreements at the mine. Workers also wanted higher wages.

Modise extended her condolences to the families who had lost loved ones in Thursday’s clash and called for calm.

“We wish to reiterate our call for cessation of hostilities and for a return to the negotiation table,” she said.

Lonmin chairperson Roger Phillimore said in a statement the platinum producer was “treating the developments around police operations (on Thursday) with the utmost seriousness”.

“The SA Police Service (Saps) have been in charge of public order and safety on the ground since the violence between competing labour factions erupted over the weekend...”

Phillimore denied the shooting was to do with Lonmi’'s labour relations.

“It goes without saying that we deeply regret the further loss of life in what is clearly a public order, rather than labour relations-associated matter.”

The SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) condemned the police’s action, and likened it to the 1960 Sharpeville massacre in which 69 people died and 180 were seriously wounded. It claimed there was “clear evidence that policemen randomly shot into the crowd”.

“There is also evidence of them continuing to shoot after a number of bodies could be seen dropping and others turning to run.”

The SAIRR felt this was “completely unacceptable”.

“... Even if the police were provoked or shot at during yesterday’s incident, or were angry at the killing of two police officers in the days before, no disciplined and properly-trained police officer would shoot into a crowd.”

The Institute wrote in an open letter to Police minister Nathi Mthethwa last year criticising “unlawful police behaviour” after Ficksburg protester Andries Tatane was killed, allegedly by rubber bullets fired by police.

The Socialist Party of Azania claimed the death toll in Thursday’s shooting was close to 50 and blamed the African National Congress.

“One can even say their deaths are as a direct consequence of the ANC’s comprador policies,” president Lybon Tiyani Mabasa said in a statement.

“Even in death, the shattered bodies of the black worker accrues profit for the rapers of continents and destroyers of nations, with the eager support from the ANC government and its storm-troopers.”

Mabasa predicted that blame for the violence would be directed at Amcu, “the less favoured union that sought to operate outside of the mantle of (the Congress of SA Trade Unions) Cosatu (and its aligned union) Num”.

Sopa said it knew “with certainty” the nationalisation of national resources would end exploitation of the black working class.

“The ANC however, as government, has made damned sure the issue of nationalisation, as a principled strategy, dies an early and sudden death...,” Mabasa said.


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