On Thursday, August 16, South African police opened fire on 3,000 striking drill operators who refused to obey orders to disperse at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana. Police reported that 34 were killed, 78 injured and 259 were arrested, however, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the death toll was likely to rise.
“We send our deepest condolences to the families and co-workers of the deceased miners, and our thoughts and prayers for the good health of all those who were injured. We hope that the official investigation will reveal the true cause of these brutal killings and help to find a lasting solution to this conflict,” says Paul Moist, CUPE national president. “No worker should ever have to give their life to fight for fair wages or better working conditions.”
South African President Jacob Zuma has called the tragic events a national tragedy and appointed an Inter-ministerial Committee on the Marikana Tragedy. “It will be a judicial commission of inquiry, and the President will announce the terms of reference in a few days,” said a presidency spokesperson in a statement.
Flags will fly at half-mast across the country this week and nationwide memorial services will take place August 23. President Zuma has declared this week a period of national mourning.
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has described the wave of violence at South Africa’s Lonmin Marikana platinum mine as appalling. Ten people had previously been killed in the past week as violence at the mine escalated.
Today, the Mail and Guardian reported that: “tensions look set to reignite at Lonmin’s platinum mine as striking workers vow to defy demands by the company to return to work or face dismissal.”
The workers are asking their employer for increases to the poverty level wages they receive. They earn approximately 4,000 rand ($475 Cdn) a month and want their salary increased to 12,500 rand ($1,485 Cdn).
South Africa is home to 80 per cent of the world’s known platinum reserves and Lonmin, a foreign-owned company based in the U.K., is the world’s third largest platinum producer.