South Africa Lonmin killings: Anger over missing miners

Many families of miners caught up in violence at a platinum mine in South Africa are unaware of their fate, two days after 34 people were killed when police opened fire at


striking workers.

Angry relatives say the authorities have not produced a list of the dead.

At least 78 people were also injured and more than 200 people arrested.

Meanwhile, thousands of the miners have cheered on controversial youth leader Julius Malema who called for the president to resign over the clashes.

On Friday, President Jacob Zuma visited the area – about 100km (60 miles) north-west of Johannesburg – and announced an inquiry into the violence, calling the deaths there “tragic”.

The circumstances that led police to open fire remain unclear, but reports from eyewitnesses suggest the shooting took place after a group of demonstrators, some holding clubs and machetes, rushed at a line of police officers.

Police, armed with automatic rifles and pistols, fired dozens of shots.

“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.

‘Illegal strike’

Thoe Nkonke, a reporter for South Africa’s Radio 702 at the scene, told the BBC that women had been going to local hospitals and mortuaries to look for their relatives, but without success.

They are angry that no central register has been produced of the victims of the violence that took place at a platinum mine in Marikana, owned by Lonmin.

Police spokesman Captain Dennis Adriao said officers were using the mine’s database to contact the families of those killed, injured or arrested, but it could take some time.

“We are working with our detectives as well as mine management to identify all those that are deceased and injured, as well the contact details for families and so forth, and that is a process that is under way at the moment,” he told the BBC.

Mr Malema told a large crowd of miners that he blamed Mr Zuma for the police’s handling of the strike.

Once a close ally of the president, Mr Malema has been expelled from the governing African National Congress and is a proponent of nationalising South Africa’s mines.

“A responsible president says to the police you must keep order, but please act with restraint,” Mr Malema said.

“He has presided over the killing of our people and therefore he must step down.”

Cyril Ramaphosa, a prominent South African businessman who was one of the leaders in the struggle against apartheid, said Mr Malema’s comments were unwise.

“It is very unfortunate that he took up a platform like this one where there is sadness and anger, to inflame the situation once again,” he told the BBC News channel.

“The president said this is not a time to cast blame on anyone, or rather, we should wait for the commission of inquiry,” said Mr Ramaphosa, who sits on the Lonmin board as a non-executive director.

The miners, who are currently earning between 4,000 and 5,000 rand ($484-$605), say they want their salary increased to 12,500 rand ($1,512).

The pay dispute, which began just over a week ago, was made worse by tensions between rival trade unions and had claimed the lives of 10 people, including two police officers, before the incident on Thursday.

South Africa is the largest platinum producer in the world and the dispute has already affected production.

Lonmin, the world’s third-largest platinum producer, has been involved in previous labour disputes at the Marikana mine.

In May 2011, the company sacked some 9,000 employees after what it described at the time as “unprotected industrial action”. Lonmin and the NUM said all were later reinstated.

Lonmin’s chief financial officer Simon Scott said it was an “illegal strike” that had got out of control in what was a tragic week for the company.

*Source BBC

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