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National Mourning in South Africa as Mining Strike Continues

National Mourning in South Africa as Mining Strike Continues

South African president Jacob Zuma announced this weekend that national mourning would begin for the 34 mine workers who were killed during a police shooting on Thursday. A further 78 people were injured in Thursday’s confrontation and another 250 were arrested. The mourning period will last from Monday until this coming Sunday and flags will fly at half mast in remembrance of the loss of life, the BBC reports.

President Zuma said in a statement regarding the tragedy, “We must reflect on the sanctity of human life and the right to life.”

The deaths of the mine workers at the mercy of police fire has been deeply criticized in the days following the upset, suggesting that the impoverished population of the area is not respected by government authorities. Last week’s violence started when mine workers went on strike at a Lonmin platinum mine on August 10 demanding higher wages. Unrest and tensions soon rose and 10 people were killed in mysterious incidents between Friday and Wednesday, including two police officers and multiple mine workers.

This past Thursday, a full-on confrontation between mine strikers and police resulted in tragedy on the day when Lonmin had originally demanded workers return to the job. On Monday, Lonmin officials once again demanded that workers return to their jobs or face getting fired. In a statement published by the Guardian, Lonmin officials said, “Those illegal strikers who did not return to work this morning will not be dismissed and have been allowed an extra day in light of the tragic events of last week.”

Many workers have told local reporters they have nothing left to lose in the wake of the hefty violence that has already marked August. One man told reporters, “It’s better to die than to work for that [expletive] I am not going to stop striking. We are going to protest until we get what we want. They have said nothing to us. Police can try and kill us but we won’t move.”

President Zuma claims that a new investigation into the events of last week will begin in earnest as Lonmin’s shares rose by 5.3%. Before the incident, the company had been struggling with falling shares. The workers started the strike in an attempt to increase wages. They currently make only about $300 a month and want to raise that to around $1,000. Comparatively, the Guardian notes, the current CEO makes nearly $2 million a year.

The violence surrounding the world’s third-largest platinum mine has sparked critiques comparing the incidents to apartheid-era violence. Many of those arrested in last week’s violence face charges such as murder, attempted murder and theft. Union representatives have said they do not appreciate the tone Lonmin officials have taken with the workers. It is clear that violence and unrest will continue to rock the platinum mine in the coming weeks and that the workers’ strike has not ended.

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Photo Credit: ER24 EMS

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1:29PM PDT on Aug 24, 2012

Helen E, you've said it all and said it well, and truthfully. Funny how the 'workers' are always viewed by the outside world as 'oppressed'. How you can you oppress a people who are in the enormous majority?
One of the tax-paying minority.

10:52AM PDT on Aug 24, 2012

To Carla v. They weren't "slaughtered for demanding their rights". They were actually storming forward, heavily armed, fully intent on slaughtering the police. (one video clearly shows one of them aiming a handgun at the cops, preparing to fire). It happens wherever in the world you have mobs/riots - look at the USA, Cairo (recently) and Ireland (not so recently). What people who do not live here don't understand is the ongoing brainwashing, bribery, coercion, and often blatant threats, used by both unions and politicians to create as much chaos as they can. There are individuals (we know who) who have in recent months been very quiet, after endless shit-stirring, and who have PROMISED to make this country, and the mines in particular, totally ungovernable. The union leaders have their own agenda too, and are firmly convinced that they can run and manage the mines better than these huge international corporations. The really SAD thing about this whole story, is the 10s of thousands of the population who simply are incapable to understanding the industry, and more importantly, are oblivious to the fact that they themselves are being used as cannon fodder. Meanwhile the fat-cat politicians and union leaders are laughing all the way to the bank, and the next election. Now THAT is bad news. So I repeat - if you don't live here you don't know the background - we live with it all day every day.

And your second point, Carla v, that "platinum, diamonds and gold ar

10:30AM PDT on Aug 24, 2012

So sad . . . . . .

3:33PM PDT on Aug 23, 2012


2:27AM PDT on Aug 23, 2012

People who write inflammatory articles really should get their facts right. These strikers were rock drillers who do NOT earn a basic of 300USD. In fact, on a random examination of payslips by the trade union Solidarity, the average take home pay of this sector is around 1500USD. In sharp contrast, none of those police officers in the line of fire receives anything even remotely near that. This "strike" was about more than just wages, as is usually the case in SA. There asre always those with hidden agendas using these opppotunites to further their "causes".

11:38PM PDT on Aug 22, 2012

Well said Helen E. Only those who live in this country know what is really going on.

11:33PM PDT on Aug 22, 2012


The police acted in self defence.

11:05PM PDT on Aug 22, 2012

I agree with Helen E. And yes, I also stay in South Africa.

The rioters shot first. Period. The police acted in self defense.

10:56PM PDT on Aug 22, 2012

Amen Helen H, people who do not live in this country must shut their mouths!!!

7:43PM PDT on Aug 22, 2012

Don't you just love Zuma's appreciation of "the sanctity of human life and the right to life", given that it's HIS COPS that did the shooting?

Bet you a dollar he's deep in the Lonmin pockets....

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