Jacob Zuma declared an extended period of mourning for South Africa for the first time since apartheid ended to commemorate the 44 people killed last week at the Marikana platinum mine
In a highly political move, President Zuma, said South Africa would have a six day period of mourning beginning today.
Meanwhile Lonmin plc, the beleaguered platinum producer who owns the mine, gave striking workers an ultimatum to end a strike by today or face being fired.
Mr Zuma, who has been criticised for his handling of the situation, said on Sunday: "The nation is in shock and in pain. We must this week reflect on the sanctity of human life and the right to life as enshrined in the constitution."
Mr Zuma's statement comes 24 hours after Julius Malema, the expelled African National Congress youth leader, addressed thousands of angry miners mourning the loss of their colleagues.
He told them Mr Zuma had "presided over a massacre," and called on all South African miners to go on strike in solidarity with those gunned down by the police. He also told them to hold out for a 200 per cent wage increase.
Mr Malema is campaigning against a second term for Mr Zuma ahead of the ANC's congress in December.
South African media however accused Mr Malema of hijacking the tragedy in his campaign to be readmitted to the ANC.
Meanwhile detectives from the Independent Police Investigative Directorate told South African media Sunday it has recovered 45 guns from the massacre site and that 300 bullets were fired in 60 seconds when armed protesters charged down a hill, where they had been protesting, towards police lines.
The investigators also said they have lined up 180 witnesses.
Lonmin management faces accusations of mishandling the strike and not showing sufficient sympathy for the victims of the tragedy.
Even though police shot dead 34 strikers, mostly rock drill operators and wounded 78 on Thursday near Marikana Mine in the North West Province of South Africa, Lonmin says the survivors must return to work or be sacked.
Simon Scott, Lonmin's acting chief executive, said: "We have not been arrogant. We have to rebuild the Lonmin brand, rebuild the platinum brand and brand South Africa."
But workers at the mine say it was an "insult" to expect them to show up to work.
"Never" Zacharia Mbewah told SAPA. "Some are in prison and hospitals. Tomorrow we are going back to the mountain, not underground, unless management gives us what we want."
Many South Africans commentators say they are in shock at the tragedy at the mine and are quoted in South African media slamming Mr Zuma, the ANC government and the police calling it the worst outrage since apartheid ended in 1994.
Paul Graham, executive director of Institute for Democracy in Africa, which was a leading anti apartheid organisation, said: “Why did South African policemen use live ammunition and interfere with a crime scene? It is very disappointing that those appointed to the commission of inquiry include cabinet ministers. They cannot be independent and will not be trusted."
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