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Sun Nov 23 15:28:43 SAST 2014

Lonmin killings senseless: Nehawu

Sapa | 17 August, 2012 15:02
Police standing over the bodies of miners at Lonmin's Marikana mine, where 44 people were killed after strike violence. File photo
Image by: ALON SKUY / THE TIMES

This week's violent clash between police and striking workers at Lonmin's Marikana mine was senseless, Nehawu said on Friday.

"This atrocious and senseless killing of workers is deplorable and unnecessary...," National Education, Health, and Allied Workers' Union spokesman Sizwe Pamla said in a statement.

The union called for an urgent investigation into the shooting.

A total of 34 people were killed in a shootout that erupted near the mine on Thursday when police tried to disperse striking miners.

More than 78 people were injured.

Another 10 people had been killed in the violent protests at the mine over the past week.

The protests were believed to be linked to rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) over recognition agreements at the mine. Workers also wanted higher wages.

"Our union feels that Lonmin should be made to account for this tragedy, and we also demand an investigation on the role of labour brokers in this whole [saga]," Pamla said.

The remuneration and working conditions of miners also needed to be addressed, as "these mining companies have been allowed to get away with murder... for far too long".

Nehawu said it was saddened by what it described as "schisms" in the labour movement at a time when unity was needed.

Pamla also criticised the police response to the protests, which erupted when thousands of rock drill operators downed tools last Friday.

"Our police service has adopted and perfected the apartheid tactics and the militarisation of the service, and encouraged the use of force to resolve disputes and conflicts."

Police tactics and training needed to be reviewed in light of Thursday's shooting, he said.

"The union demands that all police officers who deal with protests be taught... disciplined ways of controlling... the protesters because we cannot afford to have a police force that is slaughtering protesters in the new dispensation."

The Black Business Council (BBC) described Thursday's shooting as a "bloodbath".

Secretary Sandile Zungu condemned the violent confrontation and extended the BBC's condolences to the families of the dead workers.

The council called for an all-encompassing judicial commission of inquiry probe into industrial action in South Africa.

The Right2Know campaign said in a statement a number of "burning questions" had to be answered.

Allegations that police forced journalists to delete photographs of the shooting needed to be investigated.

"South Africa must also demand answers of Lonmin Platinum Mine; as anger and outrage mounts, the role of mining executives in undermining fair labour processes and potentially exacerbating conflict must also be scrutinised."

African Christian Democratic Party leader Kenneth Meshoe conveyed the party's condolences to those who lost loved ones in the violence and said the parties involved needed to be held accountable for the bloodshed.

"The SA Police Service and leadership of both the radical Amcu and the NUM must take responsibility for the lives which have been lost."

Police should have used non-lethal weapons, such as water cannons, teargas, and rubber bullets in their intervention, which the ACDP felt came too late.

Meshoe said: "While the ACDP respects the constitutional right of all citizens to embark on peaceful strike action, we nevertheless will urge government to make it illegal for any citizen to strike while armed or wielding weapons."

Earlier, North West premier Thandi Modise condemned the loss of life at the Marikana mine.

"Survival of the fittest, anarchy, and lawlessness shouldn't characterise wage negotiations in the mining sector," she said in a statement.

"This is the most tragic labour dispute with untold misery that South Africa has ever experienced, which could have been avoided had parties involved respected the law."

Lonmin chairman Roger Phillimore said in a statement the platinum producer was "treating the developments around police operations [on Thursday] with the utmost seriousness".

"The SA Police Service have been in charge of public order and safety on the ground since the violence between competing labour factions erupted over the weekend..."

Phillimore denied that the shooting had to do with Lonmin's labour relations.

"It goes without saying that we deeply regret the further loss of life in what is clearly a public order, rather than labour relations-associated [incident]."

The presidency announced that President Jacob Zuma would leave Mozambique, where he is attending a Southern African Development Community summit, to visit the scene of the shooting later in the day.

"The president is concerned about the violent nature of the protest, especially given that the Constitution and labour laws allow enough avenues to deal with issues, and is sympathetic to calls for a commission of inquiry," presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement.

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