Police, miners' families in tense face-off

2012-08-17 16:29

Marikana - A hundred women danced in a dirt road on Friday, singing protest songs amid ramshackle wooden and corrugated metal shacks sitting over one of the world's richest platinum deposits.

These songs were once directed at South Africa's white apartheid government, but these women were singing to denounce their own police who fired on their striking menfolk, leaving 34 dead, the day before.

"The police came here to kill our husbands, our brothers. Here. Our children!" said 42-year-old Nokuselo Mciteni.

Her own husband survived the clash between police and workers in the Lonmin platinum mine staging a weeklong wildcat strike.

Evidence of self-defence

But she said she hadn't seen her neighbour since Thursday, when he joined the hundreds of men protesting on a nearby hillside.

Occasionally the women stopped to shout at forensics experts combing through the dusty scene of the deadliest police action since the end of white-minority rule in 1994.

Brightly-coloured plastic markers were stuck in the ground, indicating the evidence that police say will prove that they acted in self-defence after armed strikers charged through a cloud of teargas. Police said some workers were firing guns as they advanced.

A police helicopter circled overhead while some 2 000 workers again assembled on a hillside covered in yellowed grass. Some carried metal rods and clubs, wrapping themselves in blankets against the late winter chill.

They denied having guns or charging the police. They said they gathered on the hill because they have nowhere else to go.

"We met at the only place no one can say they own, the only open space," said Zolisa Bodlani, 32.

"We were meeting," said Mozambican migrant worker Luis Macuacua, 35. "Suddenly the police came and chased us away. They made war."

‘We can’t afford to buy food’

Despite the wealth underground, the township the miners call home doesn't even have a road.

Children play in the dust, while communal pit latrines with no running water stand outside the tiny houses, emitting a terrible stench.

"We can't afford to buy food. People working at Lonmin can't send their kids to school," said Jack Khoba, 29, a mine supervisor.

That is why they want their wages of R4 000 tripled - a demand unlikely to be met in an industry that has already been forced to close several mines this year as companies struggle against low platinum prices.

Details on the dead and injured were still hard to come by Friday. Many relatives went to nearby hospitals hoping for news.

Before Thursday, 10 people had already been killed during the weeklong strike as rivalry between unions turned into vicious clashes.

Many people were still too scared or traumatised to talk about Thursday's killings, which made their homes a landmark to equal the more horrific sites of apartheid atrocities.

"I don't want these people to see me talking to you because then they're gonna kill me," one man said. "Just go, because I don't want to die."

  • Teuneman - 2012-08-17 16:34

    That statement is a joke.

      squeegee.pilot - 2012-08-17 17:12

      I feel for the families. But, what has become of society when they expect to kill police and then charge them a few days later - willing to kill them. What do our people expect? Have they lost all sense of reality? Did someone make them promises that are impossible to fulfill? Did the sangomas promise them immunity?

      spartanx93 - 2012-08-17 17:27

      If their township does not have a road, they should be striking at Lathuli House for better basic services. A pay raise will not raise their level of living, they will still be living in the dirt!

      nicholas.graan - 2012-08-17 17:49

      This tragedy happened because poorly trained police had their weapons set on automatic. When these guys panicked and let rip there was also no indication of any kind of basic fire and movement training. It is a miracle that no police were shot down by their own buddies.

  • larry.piggott1 - 2012-08-17 16:37

    They were doing a very good job of killing one and other, before the Police stepped in. Sorry for your loss, but you raise a spear to a man with a gun, you come off second best.

      grant.callaway.50 - 2012-08-17 17:17

      We were on the top of the hill because we had nowhere else to go. And those other 10 guys that died - they had no other place to go to die...

      nigel.vanysendyk - 2012-08-17 17:53

      they are still killing each other today, the 2 unions

  • mofstok - 2012-08-17 16:38

    Ag no! Not this now! There has been enough tragedy already.

  • gerhard.muller.988 - 2012-08-17 16:39

    Well if your husbands didn't pitch up with weapons, after taking muti to make them brave, to negotiate a salary increase, well then this wouldn't be an issue, now would it? I am not pro-violence at all but if they came there to pick a fight, what were the police supposed to do? Stand around and get stabbed and hacked up with pangas?

      squeegee.pilot - 2012-08-17 17:29

      Only in South Africa can people demand 300% increases with the world economy in the state it is... The unions are responsible for this situation. Ban the lot of them.

  • brendon.nel.7 - 2012-08-17 16:56

    Tragic. But u mess with the bull and u get the horns.

      ratsaka.eugene - 2012-08-17 17:02

      Indeed, indeed.

  • michelle.r.archer - 2012-08-17 16:59

    And then the wives sing the "national anthem" at the scene of the massacre. Watch the video. It is NOT the national anthem. It is just Nkosi Sikeleli When some of the women wanted to continue, they were told to stop singing. Oh, yes democracy!!!!!!!

  • Gerhard Mostert - 2012-08-17 16:59

    If you behave like a thug you will have to be treated like one . It is that simple

  • nrgx.nrg - 2012-08-17 17:00

    "Piega you celebrate your position with blood of our families" - only because you morons were trying to get more MONEY by spilling the blood of others. bunch of hypocrites

  • Cameron - 2012-08-17 17:08

    if your husbands were well behaved and didnt try and attack and kill police they would be alive today!

  • punungwe - 2012-08-17 17:09

    These guys, armed with knives, spears and kerries, were told by a sangoma, to fight the police, armed with automatic weapons, and they actually did it!!! Don't they deserve a Darwin award?

  • david.lebethe - 2012-08-17 17:16

    I have never seen the government that unleash force on its subjects. The conduct of police under the Anc government is not different from the racist white government. In fact, nothing has changed about our safety and security agencies. The only difference is that unlike before, a non-white is at the helm of the cabinet. Otherwise, the conduct and behaviour is the same - plunder the country to abbyss. However, the killing of defenceless workers whose only sin was to demand better salary and working conditions will come back to haunt the ruling party. Unions (including, all those those organisations which claim to represent workers aspirations) silence is also deafning.

      Watkykj - 2012-08-17 17:34

      Defenseless workers? So defenseless they hacked 2 policemen to death? Get off your crack pipe you pro criminal tw@t!

      nigel.vanysendyk - 2012-08-17 18:02

      please, stop with you brainwashed politics, I suppose the workers that hacked the 2 policemen were defenseless, I suppose the workers carrying guns were defenseless, I suppose the workers that charged the police carrying machetes & knives were defenseless, this was politically motivated violence, fueled by a turf war between NUM & AMCU. The police tried for days to get them to protest peacefully before AMCU finally lost control of its workers. You are right about 1 thing, the ANC is to blame, together with the monster that they created the ANCYL thugs, & add Cosatu to the list as well, the latter are afterall the ones that forced Zuma on the country with their soft political coup in Polokwane & are now trying to so the same again in Mangaung.

      gerhard.muller.988 - 2012-08-17 18:05

      @David, your post actually makes a lot of sense but why, oh why, did you have to mention "racist white government"???? And then there was the "killing of defenceless workers" part. Did you see the pictures? did you see the video? They were all armed. Yes, the government is plundering the country into abyss and the silence of the unions is deafening. But what are you and I going to do about it next elections? Vote the plundering party back into power or are we actually going to do something about it?

  • andre.vandeventer.16 - 2012-08-17 17:22

    These same women joined the protests with sticks, knobkieries and pangas. Some people just cannot foresee the outcomes of their actions!

  • gary.scande - 2012-08-17 17:25

    so should the cops have let your husbands and brothers hack them with pangas

  • sekwati.robinson - 2012-08-17 17:35

    so the guys are back at the hill AGAIN armed with metal rods and clubs,lol Amen...I give up

  • The4thHorsemen - 2012-08-17 17:38

    Demand R12500 a month and they act in such a way..... I wonder how many of the po-po there earns that much and if anyone is marching for the wives and kids of the ones that were killed? It's always sad if life is lost, but story being hypocrites. Stop bickering and pay some respect to the fallen

  • jacques.shepperson - 2012-08-17 17:38

    I have to say I support the SAPS. Who killed who first? If you protest, please leave your weapons at home!

  • joe.peters.56 - 2012-08-17 17:47

    Vote DA

      nigel.vanysendyk - 2012-08-17 18:03

      hahaha, such a good comment in the middle of all this.

  • nigel.vanysendyk - 2012-08-17 17:52

    "denied charging the police", bwhahahaahahaaha, dont lie, we saw it on TV, what do you think, we are blind, when you stop lying, stop your violence, maybe then the people of SA will listen to your grievances, until then you are nothing but a bunch of thugs.

  • DerekHerbst - 2012-08-17 17:54

    I wonder how many people commenting in the boxes below are able to survive on R4000 per month? How many are even willing to contemplate it? I am fully aware of the futility and the inappropriateness of taking weapons to a negotiation, but the question begging to be answered is "What drove them to it?" (Both sides of the conflict, I mean) I believe that if ANY man is put into dire circumstances and then pushed into a corner, he is capable of doing unspeakable things. Some of us just happen to be in a better position to avoid the corner. In this instance it seemed to me that both the protesters and the police found themselves in that particular corner. My choice is to react graciously to both sides, because this is a very difficult, scary situation which I wouldn't wish on anybody.

      EricksonTL - 2012-08-17 18:00

      I wonder how many people commenting here can't read, and want to earn 12,500 for swinging a pick axe... No, the mine is not blameless. But how can you justify those demands, when graduates starting their first job are likely to earn less? Salaries fit skill sets. If your only skill is to swing a pick axe, and there are millions of other people who could do it, then you have no bargaining power. Of course, if you then resort to violence to try and offset that lack of skill in your 'negotiations', and you're met with violence, whose fault is that?

      gerhard.muller.988 - 2012-08-17 18:10

      Sorry Fannie, yes it was. Or would you rather have the SAPS who earn less than R12,500 a month die? Are you one of the protestors who dodged a bullet?

      phae.rayden - 2012-08-17 18:18

      I agree with you, but these people seem to be happy about the death of the miners, so expecting them to have any empathy seems way beyond their ape coding.

  • PointBlank - 2012-08-17 18:06

    It's not the mines responsibility to provide services the government is meant to...

  • AyGeewils - 2012-08-17 18:14

    The hard truth is that this sort of behaviour - taking arms to a protest - is endemic to Africa and violence and brutality is just another part of life - problem comes when you murder policemen and their colleagues - world wide - this causes a counter reaction that has a lot to do with what happened here. I think this will escalate now and could create a nation wide retaliation against the police - not what we need right now.

  • louis.langenhoven - 2012-08-17 18:19

    "what do you want in our husbands in Lonmin?" I'm not sure I do interpret the question correctly but "RESPONSIBILITY" is one good answer...

  • Peter Zylstra - 2012-08-17 18:28

    LONMIN 2012 and Sharpeville 1961 are very similar. Then the ANC condemned the SAP and now they (the ANC's SAPS)are doing the same to their own people nogal! Barbaric hypocrits!

  • gregory.jurgens - 2012-08-17 18:30

    Murderers and rapist are jailed. Striking workers are killed, Zuma is to blame, He gave the order to use force. The police force is known to be arrogant and heavy handed. Where they really under threat with armored cars and water cannons tear gas. No civilized country shoots protesters with automatic weapons. The police advanced on a angry mob , this was not necessary . The police initiated the catastrophe. They could easily let those guys sit on that hill as long as they wanted to.

  • Louise Whittingstall Barnard - 2012-08-17 18:42

    2 policeman were HACKED to death!!!!! What do we need to debate about?

  • Louise Whittingstall Barnard - 2012-08-17 18:43

    I can't survive on 4000 per month but I can't HACK policeman to death either!!!

  • malcolm.williams.144 - 2012-08-17 18:45

    My income is R836 a month of which I pay R700 for my board and lodging. I pay a further R70 in bank fees. This leaves me with R66 for the month. I could work miracles with R4000.00. I homes school my four granddaughters and am privileged to be able to do it and reap the rewards of seeing the advances they are making daily. I am blessed to spend my days with them and share in all their "eureka" moments. It is a joy to know that they will be armed with knowledge, compassion, values and integrity so that they can conquer the world. With R12500 a month they would be going on field trips to the zoo, the planetarium, The Cradle Of Mankind and a hundred others each month. Imagine how their minds could expand with this kind of exposure! To the millions out there who want to take the easy way out - you will never achieve anything in life through violence and even if you do have all the wealth, will you really be happy and content? Will you be able to say with pride to your children one day - I worked for what you have and are today. I did not murder and steal. Respect for yourself and respect for others, this is the way to a life of fulfilment.

  • pages:
  • 1