Lonmin violence not 'out of thin air'

2012-08-17 14:39

Johannesburg - The violent confrontation that claimed more than 30 lives near Lonmin's Marikana mine, in Rustenburg, did not just happen out of thin air, an analyst said on Friday.

"Should we have seen this coming? Yes and no," said Steven Friedman, director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at Rhodes University and the University of Johannesburg.

"You have a police force who are not properly equipped... You have people failing to realise that we need to stop treating trade unions as a threat and treat them as an asset.

"This industry [mining] is an important industry, but it also comes with human costs. We need a little bit more sensitivity to how difficult this job is."

Unions lost touch with members

Friedman said the situation at the Lonmin mine was also a good indication that unions had lost touch with their members.

"The NUM [National Union of Mineworkers] by its own admission lost the confidence of its members... If the unions are weak, you have tragedy."

Friedman said this showed what could happen in work places if the system of bargaining broke down.

Police moved in on protesters gathered on a hilltop near the mine on Thursday, after days of negotiations.

The police ministry said on Friday that "over 30" people died in the ensuing shooting. The NUM said that 36 people were killed.

Another 10 people - including two police officers, two security guards and three NUM shop stewards - have been killed in separate incidents since the start of an illegal strike last Friday.


The strike was believed to be linked to rivalry between the NUM and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) over recognition agreements at the mine. Workers also wanted higher wages.

Friedman said union rivalry was common all over the world, but was "more bitter" in South Africa.

"The reason is that for people involved, being in a senior position in a trade union means getting out of poverty. There is an economic motive here, and we wouldn't be here if we [didn't] have an economic situation where people have to fight for leadership in unions to have a better life," he said.

The police have come under heavy criticism for opening fire on the miners.

Friedman said police officers in South Africa were not being properly trained.

"I'm not blaming the police..., [but] our police are not being trained to deal with this violent situation," he said.

Many people felt that South Africa needed a police force that was tougher, but Friedman said this was not the case.

"It is not a question of being tougher. They [police] are not adequately trained. If you put guns and bullets in the hands of these people, who are not trained properly, you have a problem," he said.

Part of the problem was also that two police officers had been killed before Thursday's shooting.

Friedman said this had increased the chance of police on the scene shooting.

"Someone should have been aware of the problem," he said.

  • dewald.galjaard - 2012-08-17 14:50

    David Nkolisi, 37, who works as a rock-drill operator, told the BBC: "We were killed for asking our employer to pay us a decent salary for hard work deep underground." No. You were shot because you asked for a raise 'African style' Well done. That's BBC front page news.

  • brian.ocinneide.7 - 2012-08-17 15:00

    Friedman is correct about the police not being properly trained. Nothing has basically changed since Sharpville. They should get police from Britain to train them in crowd control.

      Chaapo - 2012-08-17 15:21

      Youi do not find people with machetes and hacking police officers and setting others on fire there. They will shout at you, throw eggs, maybe a few molotov cocktails but that is the worst of it.

      Randomhero6661 - 2012-08-17 15:27

      Randomhero6661 - 2012-08-17 15:30

      Barefoot - 2012-08-17 15:41

      British police start riots

      hermann.hanekom - 2012-08-17 15:52

      I would just love to see how the stiff upper lip Brits would handle such a situation.

      Robert - 2012-08-17 15:56

      It appears that these strikers only understand violence and appeared to enjoy " dishing it out " so it is very difficult to really feel sympathetic towards their losses.

      rachel.longster - 2012-08-17 16:33

      From a country where the police were powerless in the face of rioting teenagers for three nights and days? But shoot and kill an unarmed man at an underground station? Do you seriously think that Britain has all the answers?

      harold.parsons.37 - 2012-08-17 16:39

      No police force in the world is trained for the kind of violence that was conjoured up by a leaderless mob. These people were hell bent on thuggery they came armed to the teeth. Even their leaders admit they got into their cars and went home because they had lost control. To say the british police have the answer is nonesense they do not carry fire arms and would have been mowed down by these thugs. Get rid of all arms carried by strikers no where in the world are strikers allowed to arm themselves. I admire our police for the restraint they have shown. Now they have to recieve criticism from strike expert wannabees. Thank you to the police for their efforts to bring about peace The union leaders should all be arrestedandcalled to book.

      andrew.hendrikse - 2012-08-17 17:01

      @brian...I agree, it looked like a scene from the 1970's. The police did not even have shields!! They displayed no method or structure. I feel for the SAP. They are at the cold face of violent political and power struggles. With lack of service delivery and a desperate social situation we going to see a lot more of this sort of blood-shed. Yesterday was the lowest point in SA since 1994. The previously oppressed have now really become the oppressor and the police are ill-equipped and trained to handle it.

  • carla.vittori3 - 2012-08-17 15:08

    "You have people failing to realise that we need to stop treating trade unions as a threat and treat them as an asset." That has to be the stupidest statement I have read all week. If it wasn't for the trade unions inciting their members to escalate the violence and then having rival unions at each others throats at the same time this would not have happened. Not to mention the fact the very existence of trade unions and concepts of "collective bargaining" is what is making it almost impossible for businesses to employ quality staff which in turn leads to the intolerable position many businesses have to deal with when staff are deliberately unproductive.

      wilhelm.grobbelaar - 2012-08-17 15:30

      I agree. That's why we, as business owners, will rather work harder than to employ anyone because its impossible to employ these days.

      adrien.mcguire - 2012-08-17 15:56

      @Carla I couldn't agree more with you. What an idiotic statement. The unions in SA are nothing more than power brokers. They are out od touch with economics, unemployment, human rights, civil discipline etc. There is no place for unions, in their present form, in a country with 40% unemployment.They are one of the biggest causes of disinvestment and unemployment in SA. The only reason they get away with their antics is that they are 'kingmakers' in SA politics. In any other democracy the government and the unions are at opposite ends of the political spectrum. They are never held accountable for the murder and anarchy they dispense because of the political situation.It is a disgrace that the ANC can allow for the murder of the citizens to suit their political aims. I cannot wait for the day the ANC gets its come uppence at the ballot box. They are a disgrace to a democracy and allow the lack of service delivery and corruption to continue unabated because they do not have the leadership or political will to fix the problems !

      sean.carbutt - 2012-08-17 15:58

      Well said. Trade unions are the left overs from a prevoous regime. Heck if they are that effective, then tell me why they are all but gone in the UK, the states etc. The solve nothing, that collective bargaining is all crap and worst of all you are guarranteed an increase regardless of your productivity.

  • ryan.blom.3 - 2012-08-17 15:10

    In Australia it is illegal for a person to carry a knife in public .How is it that we allow people to march en mass with pangas , spears and knobkierries , and then shoot them with R4 military riffles when they start running ... and then ponder as to how this could of happened .

  • michael.barns.1 - 2012-08-17 15:11

    Miners in this country are paid too little, period. If you knew what miners overseas earned you would be shocked, and so would our miners.

      nrgx.nrg - 2012-08-17 15:27

      Agreed, but that DOES NOT entitle them to threaten our police force and MURDER people!

      michael.barns.1 - 2012-08-17 15:29

      so if you put a thumbs up you think miners should be paid more, and those who put a thumbs down think miners should be paid less... just goes to show

      marius.koen.16 - 2012-08-17 15:29

      I agree. The kind of work and the hours you put in when a miner must reflect on your payslip. Would any of us go down into a dark mine, sweating away doing physical hard work for R4000 a month? And that for a damn foreign company? I would not.

      wilhelm.grobbelaar - 2012-08-17 15:32

      Yes, but we need to remember that the reason they get paid so little is because some idiots and investors sit at the top, not lifting a finger in real work and reaping what others have sown. This is the vicious circle of economics. The rich become richer and the poor, poorer.

      tanya.retief - 2012-08-17 15:36

      Does it warrant violence en masse? (Our police also get paid a pittance for the danger they're constantly in. These okes were armed to the teeth. They had killed 2 officers in cold blood the week before. I've seen footage of an officer PLEADING with to please just disarm. The police tried everything from negotiation to water cannons. Is the R4000 a month still a valid excuse for the violence?

      leaproach.thekeeper - 2012-08-17 15:37

      Do tell. How much?

      smalefane - 2012-08-17 15:40

      However, their violent behavior cannot be condoned.

      allan.keyzer - 2012-08-17 15:47

      Overseas miners are paid on production volumes and not a flat rate to be at work for 9 hours in a day. It all comes down to cost per ton to mine and on the yield per ton for the mine to stay in business.

      sean.carbutt - 2012-08-17 16:00

      Thats overseas. If you want to measure it then add in education, procutivity norms, civility, human respect etc etc. So yes, you may be correct, but this is SA, we earn rands and spend rands, we do not earn pounds or dollars.

      nelson.nkosi.3 - 2012-08-17 16:01

      Miners overseas have not just decended from trees carrying machetes and are therefore a tad more productive.

      johannes.h.jansen - 2012-08-17 16:12


      rachel.longster - 2012-08-17 16:37

      When a company can make $14-million profit in 6 months (before tax - which I am sure they won't pay much of being a huge multi-national), then I agree - they don't pay the miners enough! And this will be after R&D costs are counted for! Seriously - who needs that much money?

  • Seshego.Tshepo.Mamaregane - 2012-08-17 15:14

    so it was planned all along that they were going to fight back and kill as many as they can...

  • mario.polanski.3 - 2012-08-17 15:16

    Unimaginable that the ANC Police force can commit a Sharpeville massacre 60 years on. Seems that not much has changed since the end of Apartheid. I sincerely hope they are alraedy palnning another Hector Peterson type monument.

  • themba.qwabe.1 - 2012-08-17 15:19

    This article again shifts responsibility towards police action and systematically says nothing about therestraintand responsible manner that our agrieved society shoould learn to observe. For me our society should be able to to deal with difficult situations in a responsible manner. Are we not rational human beings ? Do we expect orher people to take responsibility for our own actions that could have been avoided in the first instance? every action has a reaction and more often than not we get what we deserve.

  • sandy.langenstrass - 2012-08-17 15:24

    One could feel that this incident was building up to this tragic end. But I ask the question....why do people who find themselves in this position....sense the danger and realize they need to get out of there.Surely they must think what about my wife and children if I die here...does this thought not enter their mind...

  • waylon.payne - 2012-08-17 15:27

    These people are are criminals, they should not be treated as protesters. They decapitated a police officer and walked around with the head on a stick. No one reports this in the media. Its disgusting.

  • denepaul - 2012-08-17 15:28

    Criticizing the police after such blatant provocations is ridiculous. 10 people were brutally murdered including 2 policeman hacked to death in the most horrific way and you honestly expect the police to stand by and allow this to continue and then have the audacity to criticize them. What do you expect them to do when faced by an angry mob hellbent on mayhem and murder - Give them Flowers?? - for heaven sake - I am surprised that the death toll wasn't even higher. I hope this sends out a clear message to those who would try and take the law into there own hands.

  • abrammothibedi.abram - 2012-08-17 15:29

    demilitarise saps and send for proper training

  • larry.piggott1 - 2012-08-17 15:31

    Blind Freddy could see this coming. More worrying, with this incompetent Government, I can see a lot more coming.

  • Randomhero6661 - 2012-08-17 15:32

  • Penny - 2012-08-17 15:32

    I saw a picture of a panga in the hands of one of the protesters. It was 2/3rds of the size of the guy wielding it. That weapon is flippin' dangerous. Wield that against me and I'm going to use my firearm. No question, no doubt. Panga against bullet - bullet wins 99.9% of the time. What did those protesters think the police would do after two police officers were killed the day before. Tensions running high - police are not going to stand there and let it happen to them. Firearm vs panga. Firearm wins again. Sad that there is no thought before action. My condolences to the victims' families who have to survive without them.

  • matt.jiggins.79 - 2012-08-17 15:32

    Why didn't they water bomb them with eish cold water?

  • raps.magans - 2012-08-17 15:34

    am very saddened by the turn of events whether be the action of Miners or the self-defence strategy of the police,i am heart broken guys,i am down,feel so pity,people dying like rats reminiscence of apathied years!!s##t ,this is bullsh@t why cant the police ministry consult strategist who have skills and experience in dealing with mob handling without waiting to use lethal force?Otherwise we would not have witnessed such a tragedy at the behest of in-experienced ,triger happy police against over-zealous miners.

  • thandiwe.nkambule - 2012-08-17 15:35

    Why did the miners carry pangas, spears and guns if they were protesting peacefully????

  • Gatvol Griet - 2012-08-17 15:36

    Oh rubbish! The police acted as any other force would have, and should have! Don't you just hate how everybody is blamed, except the miners, who brought this on themselves by arming themselves and brutally murdering 10 people!

  • kosie.fourie.1 - 2012-08-17 15:40

    I think the police should have started shooting back a long time ago. We are living in a country where criminals do as they please, how many innocent people must be hacked to death by these striking barbarians before the police are allowed to fight back?

  • keigan.hart - 2012-08-17 15:42

    Whether you are a memeber of an elite police squad (with loads of training and experience under your belt), or a new recruit that has never fired a weapon in anger; if your shot at the first thing you do is return fire. These strikers fired at the police first (with a service pistol taken from the two police officials that were murdered by this crowd). I don't think that training is the big issue here. I think the fact that the strike was allowed to escalate to this point is the real problem.

  • Jennifer - 2012-08-17 15:44

    What are miners overseas paid?

  • DrGonzoSA - 2012-08-17 15:48

    They killed two cops last week. No police force on the planet likes that. When they started shooting at the police yesterday the police got the excuse they needed to retaliate. I don't blame them.

  • monwabisi.mgqibi - 2012-08-17 15:53

    Juses is coming back indeed.....

  • flysouth - 2012-08-17 15:55

    Yes - the SAPS are poorly trained, ill-disciplined and badly led. Yes - they do not have the non-lethal specialised riot control equipment they should have. However Friedman is blaming the victims in this scenario rather than the perpetrators. The plain fact is that you have two gangs, called unions, fighting over turf - no different to the gangs in the Cape Flats. Union leaders are well aware of the wealth that flows from union dues and here they are fighting over just that flow of cash. For days a large army of armed men have sat on a hillside taunting police and brandishing sharp-edged lethal weapons as well as some firearms in defiance of all orders to disperse. Meanwhile they have made forays into the nearby areas to kill 10 people as well as 2 policemen and 2 security guards. They effectively declared war on the State, as represented by the SAPS and the support force, the SANDF. Any group which does this had better understand the consequences. I fully approve of the action take by SAPS - although I suspect that it was triggered by panic on the part of a some SAPS members, rather than a deliberate order by someone in command. On the video I have seen there is no audible order to fire even though a very audible 'cease fire' is heard several times. Firm action against the mob should have been taken days earlier by SAPS with SANDF support - even if this resulted in deaths of strikers I suspect that it would have been less deaths than we have now seen.

  • shirley.steenkamp - 2012-08-17 15:55

    Bottom line here is,the unions failed miserably! There is no reason for this type of behaviour,killing of police in sheer violence! This behaviour has been tolerated for so long that its seoond nature!

  • mandla.makhubela.54 - 2012-08-17 16:03

    South African goverment does not care even about ordinary people who strugle to put bread on table. So many people bn killed cus of Stupit police reaction.They are driving big cars and their kits at Security private schools, living at expensive estates, and they have to kill a perso who fight for a thousand rand increase and living in a shack. sis South africa a big shame on you greeeeedy leaders

  • musa.hlatshwayo.31 - 2012-08-17 16:05

    if they did not have secret account with Mdluli who build high wall to mthethwa's place and take that money to our blind police force mybe we would'nt have these,so these fatcats they must see now that their greedynes and selfishnes is kiling our nation..union must taking bribes thats all.

  • eddie.marinda - 2012-08-17 16:09

    There is more to this than meets the eye. The bottom line is that the culture of violence in SA is unacceptably high. Tell me of one demostration that is free from violence from either the demostrators or the police. And if police reports are to be believed - what were the demostrators doing with guns!

  • natasha.dewet.5 - 2012-08-17 16:13

    Strikes all over the country have become more violent. The reason for this is largely based on the fact that the offenders are not charged criminally. Govt is saying, do what you want to, that is your right. So go ahead and vandalize, threaten innocent citzens....

  • rdeloca - 2012-08-17 16:19

    The police are right to show some muscle. The miners carried weapons, hacked TWO policemen to death without mercy. There is a limit to the extent to which the police can remain inert even when faced with dire situations

  • Adrian Jack - 2012-08-17 16:23

    Then tell us Friedman, in your own opinion, how trained officers should react in such situations when confronted by armed men ready to kill.

  • stampalex - 2012-08-17 16:24

    Bottom line - you carry a weapon, act like a madman and then charge the police after drinking stuff to make you invulnerable - you do that and you'r gonna get yourself shot. Anarchy cannot be allowed to rule. Never.

  • vuyo.ntsinde.7 - 2012-08-17 16:46

    He should have said it . Our police are cowards . European police use shields and batons against protesters who throw bricks and other projectiles , SA police don't use these .They use war weapons(machine guns) . Our police should also be trained in martial arts , to defend themselves .

      MK - 2012-08-17 17:59

      You sir have been watching too many B-grade action films where the hero disarms his attackers with a few good magic techniques. European police don't have to contend with 7ft spears and machete's with 16inch blades. You don't want someone wielding weapons like that on top of you. You can't use rubber bullets either, it takes out the front rank and maybe the second rank, but the crowd eventually overruns and kills you. And in case you are not aware, wound trauma from bladed weapons kills. I don't care who it is, If you come running at me with a spear, I'll shoot you first than risk you running me through. It's a simple case of tactics.

  • cecil.currie - 2012-08-17 17:15

    The fact that it has taken this long before a tragedy occurred is in itself amazing. The Unions are as militant as can be, have very little respect for the public at large. How many peaceful marches by Unions have there been without trashing. What happened when they disagreed with the DA march. Resorted to throwing bricks and rocks. Union management never ever accepted responsibility, rather always putting the blame elsewhere. COSATU and it's leadership have never accepted responsibility or taken action against the perpetrators of this violence. This is the outcome

  • Desilusionada - 2012-08-17 17:16

    "Should we have seen this coming? Yes and no," said Steven Friedman. Haloooo Stevie, Yes we should have, all the signs were there, in fact when I posted some examples N24 deleted my post. This has been on the cards since Cosatu discovered that a Union cannot preach socialistic/communistic dogma and have their upper structure live like kings. The SAPS, (not squeaky clean at all) is now blamed, but the simple truth is: 30+ lives were made into cannon fodder to pander to the expansionist, power hungry, megalomania of a Union boss or bosses.

  • manu.dibango.96 - 2012-08-17 17:29

    Imagine for a moment that this had happened in the US or Europe. What do you think would have been the public response?

  • tp.smith.739 - 2012-08-17 17:31

    Where were you when this all started, Mr.Friedman? Sitting in your comfortable office at the University, I presume. It's easy to play the Monday morning quarterback. When police officers are killed, the force responding is not as interested in finding a peaceful solution as much as they are interested in revenge. I don't believe these people should have been shot while running away. But I wasn't there to witness what all happened. Was there a neutral mediator trying to foster a peaceful solution before this all escalated to a mass shooting? It's very sad. My condolence to the families of all those killed or hurt in the violence.

  • martha.stclair - 2012-08-17 17:52

    Very sad, but don't protest with weapons. The police are only human and reacted to a situation, they didn't cause it! Both sides have had loses, which is beyond tragic, but at the end of the day, the police are doing their jobs! And having said that, the workers deserve a decent living wage too!

  • Lenka - 2012-08-17 18:01

    Its tragic how police try to solve this situation in your country. Those poor minners have nothing to loose and if there is no improvement in wages and general social conditions they have actually no perspective in their life. There is somewhere serious mistake in system, which is confirmed by inadequate violent reaction of police and doesn't offer solution. I know its easy to talk about it from news we get here on TV, but its still shame for such amazing country.

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