Some miners vow to fight to the death

2012-08-18 11:00

Frantic wives searched for missing loved ones and some miners vowed a fight to the death as police announced a shocking casualty toll from Thursday’s shooting by police of striking miners: 34 dead and 78 wounded.

Wives of miners at the Lonmin platinum mine northwest of Johannesburg took the place of dead and wounded husbands yesterday and staged a protest.

But this time, instead of asking for higher wages, as the miners had done, the women demanded to know why police had opened fire with automatic rifles, pistols and shotguns on the strikers, many of whom had been armed with spears, machetes and clubs, as they rushed toward the officers.

Police said at a news conference that it was in self-defence, noting that strikers possessed a pistol taken from a police officer they had beaten to death on Monday.

But video footage indicates the miners may have simply been trying to flee teargas that police had fired at them moments earlier.

“Police stop shooting our husbands and sons,” read a banner carried by the women. They kneeled before shotgun-toting police and sang a protest song, saying “What have we done?” in Xhosa.

Makhosi Mbongane, a 32-year-old winch operator, said mine managers should have come to the striking workers rather than send police.

Strikers were demanding monthly salary raises from R4 500 to R12 500. Mbongane vowed that he was not going back to work and would not allow anyone else to do so either.

“They can beat us, kill us and kick and trample on us with their feet, do whatever they want to do, we aren’t going to go back to work,” he told Associated Press.

“If they employ other people they won’t be able to work either. We will stay here and kill them.”

The mining company said earlier that it would withhold comment on the report until the conflict situation cooled down. At the scrubland scene of the killings, a woman carrying a baby on her back said she was looking for a missing miner.

“My husband left yesterday morning at 7am to come to the protest and he never came back,” said Nobantu Mkhuze.

Shares in Lonmin PLC fell as much as 8% yesterday.

Since violence broke out last weekend at the Marikana mine, shares have fallen by as much as 20%, wiping some $610 million (R5.1 billion) off the company’s market value. 

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