Memorial services were held across South Africa on Thursday after 44 people were killed in disputes surrounding the Lonmin-owned Marikana platinum mine. The central memorial service took place near the mine where 34 mine workers were shot dead by a round of police fire a week ago. The Guardian reports that around 1,000 people attended the service and that President Jacob Zuma called on South Africans to reflect on all victims of violence in the nation’s history. Notably, no police were present at the well-attended memorial.
President Zuma has announced numerous times that the violent disputes regarding workers’ wages, police brutality and inter-union fighting should be a reminder to strive for a peaceful society. He has also demanded the mining companies provide better housing for mine workers who often live in squalid conditions in rural pockets of South Africa.
Last Thursday’s confrontation between striking mine workers and police forces, which ended up killing 34 people, has caused a major oppositional movement to foment against the government. Julius Malema, a former African National Congress Youth League leader, has been a harsh critic of the Zuma administration and has also been at the head of mine workers who filed a criminal case against police. That case charges that the police unnecessarily murdered 34 workers.
President Zuma also officially announced the creation of a commission to investigate the violence surrounding the platinum mine, pledging to hold anyone who committed a crime accountable for their actions. In a statement printed by the BBC, Rob Davies, the trade and industry minister, said that the commission will try to establish the chain of events:
The inquiry will have to establish the chain of responsibility, who did what wrong and hold anybody who did wrong to account. I think that is a correct process in a democratic society – that if actions are taken against people they have to be on the basis of evidence.
President Zuma’s administration has come under heavy fire despite the announced plans for the commission. Some have even suggested the ruling government was complicit in the murders of the mine workers. Fears of industry unrest were fueled further this week when workers took action at two other platinum mines in South Africa, the BBC notes.
The price of platinum has boomed in the last two weeks since violence erupted at the Lonmin mine, the third-largest producer of the material in the world. A strike that started on August 10 when mine workers demanded better wages spiraled out of control and it still remains unclear exactly how the most violent encounter on August 16, which left 34 dead, began.
Photo Credit: www.gcis.gov.za