Politicians, unions call for investigation into Lonmin deaths
Political parties and organised labour are calling for an urgent investigation into the shootings at the Lonmin mine in Marikana in the North West.
A shoot-out between police and strikers at the mine left at least 36 people dead or wounded according to the National Union of Mineworkers.
African National Congress spokesman Jackson Mthembu said it needed to be determined who had caused the confrontation between police and striking miners.
Mthembu said the ANC was shocked about what happened.
“All of us feel very saddened by the violence we have seen on television,” he said.
“We are requesting that our government hold an inquiry on what happened today so that all of us South Africans can come to a conclusion on who is responsible.” The Democratic Alliance said it was shocked and appalled by what had happened at Lonmin.
“We call on union leaders, the police and everyone else involved to immediately work towards a de-escalation of the conflict,” the party said in a statement.
“All action must be taken to avoid further bloodshed.” The DA said an urgent independent investigation was required to determine what happened and who was responsible.
“The families of everyone involved, and indeed the nation, deserve to know how and why this bloodshed occurred,” it said.
Traditional and religious leaders need to mediate: UDM
The United Democratic Movement (UDM) condemned the violence, saying "This is a very sad day for South Africa."
The party has called for traditional and religious leaders to mediate, and "help bring the parties back to the negotiating table."
"The UDM believes that the Kings, Chiefs and religious leaders of the different mineworkers should now be called in to mediate in this industrial dispute, as it is unlikely that the mineworkers would be willing to listen to the same Government that has brutally massacred them," said UDM president and MP Bantu Holomisa.
The Inkatha Freedom Party on Thursday said the massacre at the mine highlighted the brewing tensions within South African society and should not be underestimated.
“Its horror should not only shock us but bring to the fore how too often conflicts in this country are dealt with through violence,” IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini said in a statement.
“For too made years irresponsible leaders have spread throughout the country the culture of rebellion, lawlessness and violence as a tool of political action. Unless there is a fundamental change of culture at the highest level of government things will worsen.”
“We call on the President to order a for full, expedited and independent investigation of whether police action was justified, proportional and necessary under the circumstances.” Oriani-Ambrosini said
The Congress of the People also called for an investigation by an independent body into what instigated the killings.
“In order for calm to return in that area proper policing packaged with genuine political and trade union solution to the problem must be found urgently,” Cope MP Leonard Ramatlakane said in a statement.
“Cope believes the magnitude of this massacre warrants a comprehensive report by the police to Parliament’s portfolio committee on police.”
Echoes of Sharpville
The Azanian People’s Organisation compared the violence in Marikana to the Sharpeville and Soweto shootings.
“As Azapo we can only describe the situation as a massacre not different from March 21, 1960 in Sharpeville; June 16, 1976 in Soweto and June 17, 1992 in Boipatong,” the party said.
“It was the police that killed Andries Tatane, a protester who was demanding better services from government. Today police kill miners who are protesting for better working conditions and better remuneration.”
Azapo called for the immediate suspension of all police who were at the scene and called for an immediate criminal investigation by an independent international body.
President Jacob Zuma was alarmed and deeply saddened at the way the dispute at Lonmin’s mine in Marikana in the North West had degenerated to the tragic loss of so many lives, the presidency said in a statement on Thursday.
“We call upon the labour movement and business to work with government to arrest the situation before it deteriorates any further,” the presidency said.
Zuma said he had instructed law enforcement agencies to do everything possible to bring the situation under control and to bring the perpetrators of violence to book.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa’s office said in a statement on Thursday that police at the mine did their best in a volatile situation.
“The Minister [Mthetwa] is now considering requesting the President to institute a full inquiry into this whole situation, not just around what happened today but holistically at this situation,” said spokesman Zweli Mnisi.
“Now what should police do in such situations when clearly what they are faced with are armed and hardcore criminals who murder police?”
Lonmin were treating developments at the mine with the utmost seriousness, chairman Roger Phillimore said in a statement.
“The South African 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,” he said.
The violence claimed the lives of eight of the company’s employees and two police officers, said Phillimore.
The company deeply regretted the loss of life in what it saw as clearly a public order rather than labour related matter.
It was self defence: SAPS
“The police, in order to protect their own lives and in self-defence, were forced to engage the group with force.”
Adriao said this had followed extensive and unsuccessful negotiations by police to disarm and disperse a heavily armed group of illegal gathers at a hilltop near the mine.
“This resulted in several individuals being fatally wounded, and others injured.” The crime scene which covered a vast area was being managed by senior officials from the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) and supported by an expert team of detectives and forensic experts, he said.
Unions regret violence
NUM said on Thursday the violence at the mine was extremely regrettable.
“We are saddened and regret this further loss of life which has just happened, bringing roughly the total number of deaths to 30,” said general secretary Frans Baleni.
“It is extremely regrettable. We hope a full investigation will be done and hope the perpetrators will be brought to book.”
Cosatu said the violence that resulted in the shooting of a number of people on Thursday at the mine in Marikana was being orchestrated.
“Broadly we believe there is an orchestration, a planned violence, because the violence that people are seeing today has been going on since January,” said general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.
Vavi said Cosatu was extremely concerned about the loss of so many lives.
SACC calls for peaceful resolution
The South African Council of Churches said the problems at Marikana should be peacefully resolved.
A SACC delegation paid a pastoral and fact-finding visit to both workers and management at the mine, the council said.
“The impression we gained is that both parties are willing to engage one another provided the level of hostility is reduced to allow peaceful interaction and resolution.” The SACC committed itself to assist in mkaing negotiations proceed and called on police to exercise restraint in the use of force as they sought to maintain law and order.