South Africa Lonmin Killings: Anger Over Missing Miners

by
staff
Many families of miners caught up in violence at a platinum mine in South Africa are unaware of their fate, two days after 34 people were killed when police opened fire at striking workers.

Many families of miners caught up in violence at a platinum mine in South Africa are unaware of their fate, two days after 34 people were killed when police opened fire at striking workers.

Angry relatives complain that police and mine management have failed to produce a central register of the dead.

At least 78 people were also injured and more than 200 people arrested.

A police spokesman has told the BBC efforts were being made to contact people, but it would take some time.

Earlier, South Africa's President Jacob Zuma announced an inquiry into Thursday clashes, calling the deaths there "tragic".

The circumstances that led police to open fire remain unclear, but reports from eyewitnesses suggest the shooting took place after a group of demonstrators, some holding clubs and machetes, rushed at a line of police officers.

Police, armed with automatic rifles and pistols, fired dozens of shots.

"I am convinced that the Commission of Inquiry will uncover the truth and facts will emerge," he said in a statement after meeting police and injured workers.
Youth leader arrives

Thoe Nkonke, a reporter for South Africa's Radio 702 at the scene, told the BBC women have been going to local hospitals and mortuaries to look for their relatives, but without success.

They are angry that no central register has been produced of the victims of the violence that took place at a platinum mine in Marikana, owned by Lonmin.
Police spokesman Captain Dennis Adriao said officers were using the mine's database to contact the families of those killed, injured or arrested.

"We are working with our detectives as well as mine management to identify all those that are deceased and injured, as well the contact details for families and so forth, and that is a process that is under way at the moment," he told the BBC.

Meanwhile, controversial youth leader Julius Malema has arrived in Marikana, about 100km (60 miles) north-west of Johannesburg, to address the miners.

Once a close ally of the president, Mr Malema has been expelled from the governing African National Congress and is a proponent of nationalising South Africa's mines.

The miners, who are currently earning between 4,000 and 5,000 rand ($484-$605), say they want their salary increased to 12,500 rand ($1,512).

The pay dispute, which began just over a week ago, was made worse by tensions between rival trade unions and had claimed the lives of 10 people, including two police officers, before the incident on Thursday.

South Africa is the largest platinum producer in the world and the dispute has already affected production.

Lonmin, the world's third-largest platinum producer, has been involved in previous labour disputes at the Marikana mine.

In May 2011, the company sacked some 9,000 employees after what it described at the time as "unprotected industrial action". Lonmin and the NUM said all were later reinstated.

Lonmin's chief financial officer Simon Scott said it was an "illegal strike" that had got out of control in what was a tragic week for the company.

"We have had good relationships with our unions in the past. What's happened over the last week has been a blow to that but it's absolutely our intention to get those relationships back on to a good footing," Reuters news agency quotes him as saying.