Mine Strike In South Africa Turns Violent, 34 Killed

According to a columnist for the U.K. Guardian newspaper, the NUM is closely linked to the ruling African National Congress political party. But NUM lost its right organize workers at the mine after its membership dropped from 66% to 49% of the workforce. NUM’s leadership was also reportedly seen as ‘too close’ to the mine’s management.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union’s Jeffrey Matunjwa said that the protests were in response to poor pay.

Average price of platinum 1992 to 2012 in USD per troy ounce

Average price of platinum 1992 to 2012 in USD per troy ounce

“As long as bosses and senior management are getting fat checks, that’s good for them. And these workers are subjected to poverty for life,” Matunjwa said. “[After] 18 years of democracy, the mineworker is still earning 3,000 [South African Rand – approximately $360] under those harsh conditions underground.”

Prior Peaceful Protests, Fatal Clashes

Violence had been brewing since the strike began.

Four NUM members were shot and wounded in two separate clashes with AMCU members at Nkaneng on the first day of the strike, according to news reports.

Nine people, including two police officers, were killed at the same mine on 13 August.

The two police officers were hacked to death and a third seriously injured when they had responded to the unrest.

Police officers responding to the killings of the police officers then shot and killed three more miners.

NUM had previously accused the rival AMCU of stirring up trouble during an illegal six-week mine workers strike in January 2012.

NUM SA logoDuring the January strike mineworkers rioted, looted and burned property. Three people were killed during that incident, according to published reports.

Before the 16 August shootings, South Africa Police Service Captain Dennis Adriao told journalists: “We have tried over a number of days to negotiate with the leaders and with the gathering here at the mine, our objective is to get the people to surrender their weapons and to disperse peacefully.”

The striking mine workers had gathered on 16 August on a nearby hill. The miners were armed with spears, pangas (large machete-like knives) and sticks. A large group of women, not employed at the mine, joined them.

What Really Happened?

Video footage from several different angles shows police were pushing the strikers into a small area. Groups of strikers began singing struggle songs, marching along police lines.

The police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the groups.

At least one person in one group shot a handgun at police. Members of this group then either panicked or deliberately charged a police line, which sparking the shooting, according to published reports.

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