18 shot in ‘battle of Marikana’
17 August 2012 | CRIME REPORTER AND SAPA
The shooting broke out when police sought to disperse striking workers armed with pangas, spears and clubs who had gathered on a hill in the area.
According to information received, some striking workers shot live rounds at police when officers tried to disperse them with teargas and water cannons.
“Police did their best in a volatile situation,” Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa’s office said in a statement afterwards.
“Now what should police do in such situations when clearly what they are faced with are armed and hardcore criminals who murder
police?” asked ministerial spokesman Zweli Mnisi.
According to one report, no fewer than 18 people were counted lying in the veld, either dead or wounded, after the three-minute shootout, but police had not confirmed the number of fatalities and casualties at the time of going to press.
Netcare 911 spokesman Jeffrey Wicks confirmed that paramedics were at the scene of the shooting, but declined to comment further, citing patient confidentiality as well as an agreement with the police.
Ten people, including two security guards and two police officers, had already been killed in the violent protests during the past week.
After the shooting, a tense calm returned to the troubled mine.
Policemen involved in the shooting returned to their bases as two helicopters circled the area. The area around a hill where the strikers had gathered before the shooting was cordoned off with barbed wire.
The general secretary of the
National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Frans Baleni, said the union had been saddened by the further loss of lives, which brought the total number of deaths to 30.
“It is extremely regrettable. We hope a full investigation will be done and the perpetrators will be brought to book,” he said.
Zwelinzima Vavi, the general secretary of the Congress of SA Trade Unions, said the violence that resulted in the shooting between police and strikers had been orchestrated.
“Broadly, we believe there is... planned violence, because the violence that people are seeing today has been going on since January,” he said. He added that scores of people had been “systematically targeted”.
IFP spokesman Mario Ambrosini called on President Jacob Zuma to order an independent investigation into whether police action had been justified under the circumstances.
Zuma said he had been deeply saddened at the way in which the industrial dispute had degenerated.
“We are shocked and dismayed at this senseless violence. We believe there is enough space in our democratic order for any dispute to be resolved through dialogue without any breaches of the law or violence,” he said, adding that he had told police to do everything possible to bring the situation under control.
Thus far, six people have been arrested for intimidation during the week-long protests at the mine.
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