Mthethwa: Police tried to avoid shooting

2012-08-21 15:19

Cape Town - Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Tuesday said his officers who shot dead 34 striking mineworkers last week had done everything in their power to prevent the incident.

"The events of Thursday 16 August 2012 were not a sudden eruption but a culmination of events that were building over months and months," Nathi Mthethwa told a special parliamentary debate on the tragedy at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana.

"The South African Police Service is saddened by the events that unfolded on that fateful day. The police did all in their power to avert such a situation."

The police shooting brought the death toll at the Marikana mine to 44, after 10 people were killed in reported inter-union clashes in the days after an illegal strike over wage demands started on 10 August.

National police commissioner Riah Phiyega has said that her forces had to use maximum force after coming under attack from armed mine workers, leaving 34 people dead and 78 injured.

"The loss of life among workers and members of our police service is tragic and regrettable," Mthethwa said.

The use of live ammunition has shocked the country, leading to a national week of mourning with nationwide memorial services taking place on Thursday.

"It is our responsibility both as individuals and as a nation to ensure that it does not happen again," Mthethwa said.

  • blignault.michaele - 2012-08-21 15:23

    It is a tradegy, but when politics run rife what do you expect.

      sandra.j.rennie - 2012-08-21 15:56

      Hopefully this lesson will now show the Department of Labour that the Union Leaders are nothing but troublemakers and cowards ! Away with the Unions - and you will see more poverty stricken people employed by the Small and Medium Sector.

      riona.moodley.7 - 2012-08-29 09:56

      this is an old ANC trick. it was used in the 'Bisho Massacre'. all you do is to put the police in a situation where they are forced to shoot and then you cry as loud as possible.

  • nigel.vanysendyk - 2012-08-21 15:27

    We saw it all, although the situation is regrettable, the miners 1st killed 4 people ( 2 policemen) in cold blood & then attacked them with weapons, the police did what they could. The miners & their cowardly union bosses had no intention of going home without bloodshed.

      erica.pola - 2012-08-21 15:46

      They should be charged with murder, not the police. Fatboy Malema has got the wrong end of the stick again! Oh yes...he failed woodwork !

      QI - 2012-08-21 15:49

      I totally agree. The miners went to the hill armed to the teeth. Enough people had been killed already and so what were they to do? ......... put a stop to the whole strike asap, which is exactly what they did. The strikers meant business and actually so did the police - to sort them all out! When I heard the armed strikers were going to the hill, I knew that either way it was going to end in tears and rather the strikers tears than any more of our Police Force!!!

      godfrey.welman - 2012-08-21 16:09

      So sad, but they were taught, this is the only way to be taken serious. To quote a previous Premier of Gauteng "There is no protest in the street"

  • colin.taylor.9883 - 2012-08-21 15:31

    With the new evidence being aired on Aljazeera and ENews, You can see the police were fired upon first. Only then were rubber bullets replaced by live ammunition. The SAPS did what needed to be done in that exact moment. Unions and Strikers need to be taken to task in this country of ours....

      QI - 2012-08-21 15:49

      I totally agree. The miners went to the hill armed to the teeth. Enough people had been killed already and so what were they to do? ......... put a stop to the whole strike asap, which is exactly what they did. The strikers meant business and actually so did the police - to sort them all out! When I heard the armed strikers were going to the hill, I knew that either way it was going to end in tears and rather the strikers tears than any more of our Police Force!!!

  • kevin.pitzer - 2012-08-21 15:32

    The first shot was witnessed to come from the strikers themselves and Government should silence those rabble rousers who are trying to get political mileage out of this situation.In fact what can anyone expect a cop to do being shot at and chased down by a couple of thousand ,armed to the teeth ,full of make believe muthi ,frenzied men who were themselves going in for the kill.

      QI - 2012-08-21 15:49

      I totally agree. The miners went to the hill armed to the teeth. Enough people had been killed already and so what were they to do? ......... put a stop to the whole strike asap, which is exactly what they did. The strikers meant business and actually so did the police - to sort them all out! When I heard the armed strikers were going to the hill, I knew that either way it was going to end in tears and rather the strikers tears than any more of our Police Force!!!

      glen.e.huysamer - 2012-08-21 16:01

      The footage can be manipulated in any way you want to make it seem to look, reverse the footage and the very opposite can be perceived. It is neither here or there, all the deaths was avoidable if LONMIN recognized AMCU from the start and not try circumvent proper labour relations. The entire issue around deaths was avoidable long before the strike begun.

      nosiphom.mazibuko - 2012-08-21 16:12

      Glen.E.Hysamer - it does seem you do not understand the collective bargaining process that COSATu managed to get legislated. It goes like this. Only one union is allowed to represent a certain category of workers - so in this case because NUM had the 50% +1 majority - they were recognised, and only them. Then they lost membership and only an audit should prove that they have lost the majority. If indeed they have they get three months to rectify the situation - in other owrds another audit. NUM was dragging its feet as far as the audit was concerned, so LONMIN could NOT recognise another union to bargain for the same category of workers, hence AMCU lost patience with NUM, and the rest is history. Lonmin had no basis for recognisisng AMCU - maybe they could have also been proactive.

      terry.burne - 2012-08-21 17:13

      @Glen Huysamer - so if you reverse the footage, then the miners rise from the dead, get shot at and survive, and then shoot at the police. If that's the case, then that muti was really good stuff hey!!! Maybe you've been smoking some of it too?

      glen.e.huysamer - 2012-08-24 21:40

      Soory Terry maybe I did not make it clear enough, if one were to take all the individual news coverage and splice it together, differently, the end result can also be that the minors were defending themselves. At Nosi You are definitely a member of NUM, Num should bargain for NUM members and AMCU should bargain for theirs But if there are two, three or four workers unions then all have the right to be recognized. The only reason LONMIN did not, was that AMCU union members who use to be NUM members decided they were not happy with the pathetic deals NUM leaders had made for them, walked out of NUM and started a new Union, one which is not affiliated to government, which would serve their members first. There was a time when NUM was not recognized themselves and had to hold a wild cat strike so that mine bosses could take them seriously. People tend to forget the history of NUM itself. The fact is that mine workers, (all of which is highly dangerous and which carries a skill on it's own) should be paid more than what they are getting, in reality far more than what they are asking for. And as much as the rich and safe would argue differently, it would be best for all South Africans if they were well paid workers, as they are on the frontline of South Africa's economy, and should be paid the equivalent of mines in Aus. USA & Can because the minerals taken out of South Africa are sold in USDollars. People justifying deaths that may have been orchestrated is wrong, period!

  • gavin.lott.9 - 2012-08-21 15:36

    No need for excuses!..90% of the country are "finally" behind you SAP! you did your job..end of story!

  • phumi.ntlabati - 2012-08-21 15:41

    Typical of African leaders they have no honour when it comes to accepting responsibility for their actions! If Mthethwa had any credibility left in him he would do an honourable thing and resign. We are a forgiving nation and if we can forgive the whites for the atrocities they have done to us. Surely deep down in our scarred hearts we can find a way to forgive him as well!

      nosiphom.mazibuko - 2012-08-21 15:46

      Resign for what? What about the two police officers that were killed by the hooligans and the 2 security guards and the 8 other miners? Who should "resign" for that? Evryone was sitting on their hands when the crisis was developing, now that an unlawwful croud attacke the police and is out-gunned and some of them unfortunately die - after all every war has casualties - there is now this who-ha. Protest peacefully. Strike peacefully, and leave those who want to go to work alone - it is their right too!

      phumi.ntlabati - 2012-08-21 15:54

      There situation got out of hand because we do not have people who lead from the front like our former general Mr. Bheki Cele. He would have been on top of that mountain personally disarming those miners!

      deon.louw.7505 - 2012-08-21 16:00

      So 10 people being killed by the protestors was not yet enough? The police was being patient for nearly a week before they were attacked by the crazy miners.

      norman.depluhm - 2012-08-21 16:42

      @ Phumi, are you serious!? 100odd panga-wielding crazy men charge the police, fire shots with dead policeman's service pistols they stole, and you expected what? That the police should just stand there and take a panga to the head? If that happened what would the 1000+ angry men behind the first wave of assault have done? They would have joined the party. The cops did what they had to do! @Nosipho, nicely said, if only the unions were able to control their members, perhaps the precendent set in CT where millions in damage was caused will apply here, that the unions would be collectively responsible for the actions of their members. Must admit I did see the union leader on bended knee with a megaphone begging his members to stand down, was about 20 mins before the shooting. Wish they listened.

  • erica.pola - 2012-08-21 15:44

    Criminals can use live ammunition but the Police can't ? What a load of CRAP!

  • jan.human - 2012-08-21 15:48

    Empty, meaningless words....It won't stop killings in SA. It is culture... a very sad culture... due to the lack of education, discipline and humanity..It is dark and becoming darker..

  • BigChiefPlumbPudding - 2012-08-21 15:59

    To people commenting against the police: Say whatever you want, turn it political if you want, blame apartheid, Verwoed, Zuma, whatever makes you happy. all your comments are meaningless because I saw with my own eyes what happened and it's there for everyone to see. If you don't want to believe what you see, then at least be honest and say so. But don't try and twist it around and blame the police you sick jokers, and don't try and tell us the opposite to that which we have seen with our own eyes.

  • QI - 2012-08-21 16:00

    .........and now the armed strikers, and their wives who went to support their husbands, are all crying and humbled and shocked. Shocked? Why were they armed if it was a peaceful strike? Why did they all rush forward to face the police if it was a peaceful strike? P-l-e-a-s-e!!! The Unions are entirely to blame for this unrest. If they had any 'balls' they would have negotiated on behalf of their members, not whipped them up into a frenzy and ruined their families, their future and our fragile Country's reputation!!! .....and all the while Mr Zuma was drinking Laurentina and enjoying his prawns, he was sooooooooooooo concerned about S.A.!!!

  • glen.e.huysamer - 2012-08-21 16:10

    If it be said that police did all they could to avoid confrontation and death why is it that the did not retreat timelessly. Why is it that they stayed and blockaded the path of these workers, did they miscalculate the danger, instigate the danger, were they just not trained enough, were they manipulated by higher command structures. There were many ways police could have done more to avoid a final show down, but were they riding the wave of ego. Did the police do all they could to prevent the LONMIN massacre? No. We are all saddened, angry and shocked that this (once again) has happened in South Africa. I for one feel sorry for the police who were on the ground that day, as much as I feel for the workers and all who lost their lives because all of it was completely avoidable, long before the strike was called.

      jayne.oldewage - 2012-08-21 16:24

      Sorry.... did I misuderstand you? Did you say the police should retreat? How far exactly should they retreat? Would you be happy if they retreated so much that this unruly mob was let loose in your neighbourhood? I am confused much?

      denis.gomo - 2012-08-22 07:57

      You are clearly high on your socks old man....saying the police were supposed to run away? What planet do you come from? Police are our last bastion of defence...that's why they are the police. If they retreat, what can be expected of us ordinary men?

      glen.e.huysamer - 2012-08-24 22:06

      @Denis, you know I never try and insult anybody you clearly feel differently about such matters. I did not say police should have run away, I clearly said that they should have retreated, retreating is a tactic used in many wars to devastating effects in many campaigns. (The greatest examples are Germany invading Russia) however we are not talking about this on a larges scale but in actual fact mine workers angry at not been taken seriously, not an army, but plain and simple, for the most cases unschooled hard working minors who have chosen to bring attention to their intolerable conditions. Year in and year out for decades the same thing happens. If the police retreated they could have left enough space and time between them and the workers not necessitating live ammunition. Time could have defused the situation, a commodity that the police did not include into their tactics. They confronted like amateurs, which is clearly seen in the footage as they almost landed up shooting each other. The incident is farcical and does not need a professional law enforcer to realize how pathetically the whole police operation was, which amongst many other things in a long chain reaction of very bad decisions by many caused the unnecessary deaths related to the strike. Which we can clearly call The LOMIN Masacre Let us not forget that mine related massacres date back as far as 1913 when hundreds died in running battle through the streets of Johannesburg under Smut's command.

      glen.e.huysamer - 2012-08-24 22:35

      Let us also not forget that Smuts took orders from Governor-General Gladstone who was in pocket with the mining magnates, and that General Smuts and Botha were eventually captured by the minors and held ransom with guns pointed at their heads until their demands were met this after the army and police confrontation spiked to an outright massacre in front of the rand club in Johannesburg. This did not see the end of civil unrest as this only sparked more strive across other major sectors in South Africa, I can carry on, and on. The British mining magnates were in charge then and, really if we sum it all up the 'club' still is. And they do not give a dam about their employee's, they will pay as little as possible and they don't give a dam about you or me. They do however enjoy the support from many who actually do not enjoy one cent or reward from the mines themselves but somehow believe that foreign investment into the mines is actually of great benefit to them, even when their countrymen are dying while trying to ensure that South African's in the frontline of our economy hold onto a greater slice of the pie. The richer our workers, the richer all of South Africa is, and ensuring maximum share in our mineral riches is an unquestionable method of kickstarting our troublesome economy, and high unemployment. Those that argue the usual, remain fools, because in reality the usual way of doing business is what caused the Lonmin Massacre and others like it in the past.

  • fanie.hugo - 2012-08-21 16:20

    look at zuma`s lifestyle,someone want it urgently.dont blame malema blaim these who are behind him,ministers etc.he wil give them what they as a white man was give up my job in telkom when they come with afirmative pakkages under the name of `privatiseering` they force us out of ouer jobs.i think maby it is beter for me to go and make space to let things working.what could i as ordanery white men do.i have no right just as al the poor people today have.the problem in this country is not about white and black it is between rich and poor who feel nothing for ouer debt slaves .this thing is the replay of the french revulution.but one thing also shine bright,the corruption is not only the coverment,but also under them who want to took the goverment out.they want that gold at the end of the people i urge you go and do something to the outlanders that the goverment get money from to keep the country in a type of debt.i am afrikaans and not good at english but try my best.this country can work if we listen to someone who`s deeds are the same then his words.we are all south africans we all are born here.we need each other to make things work.plaesa stand together ,one for all and all for one.

  • rowan.maulson - 2012-08-21 16:23

    I'm sorry, but the use of live ammunition has not shocked the country at all, it was necessary to put these rioters down. What has shocked the country is the response our useless government has had to this incident.

      sanelethato.nqayimlaba - 2012-09-04 07:18

      I describe the decision to return fire using live ammunition to non threatning miners as most senseless n disgusting anyman kind on earth would have taken to subsidy the situation.

  • james.otter.10 - 2012-08-21 16:28

    My understanding is that most of the strikers were not South Africans but migrant workers. I also understand that they had taken some kind of muti and were armed with cutlasses and knobkerries and a few firearms (I saw pictures of them on TV and they appeared very hostile). I am also led to believe that there is a turf war going on between two unions which wound the workers up. It would seem that if the police had not fired on the mob they would have been cut to bits. I guess the police were pretty scared of the mob they were facing. I don't like to see people killed, even if they are fearsome mob. Hopefully this can be resolved without further violence. Do I have the facts right?

      denis.gomo - 2012-08-22 08:01

      You have the facts wrong...migrant workers in this case means workers who migrated from otther provinces of SA...not necessarily from outside SA. The fact is that the majority of the strikers are South Afrixcans of Xhosa and Tswana decent with small sprinklings from Mozambique and Lesotho.

  • james.otter.10 - 2012-08-22 10:11

    Thanks Denis. I was under the impression that striking workers were from outside RSA. It does not alter the problem much other than to define it as an internal issue. So what we have is a violent juiced-up armed mob striking unofficially advancing towards the police. In this case the police fired on the mob. What else could they have done? The other question that arises is why is there a hostile mob apparently intent on attacking and killing the police? The answer will probably give rise to further questions. The government must get to the bottom of this. The word for this state of affairs is anomie, which is difficult to deal with regardless of one's political orientation. There was an occurrence in London last year and several occurrences in RSA over service non-delivery. In these cases the destruction of property was the target. In this case the police (present to prevent lawlessness)became the target.

  • boipelo.mmekwa - 2012-08-22 16:28

    Actually behind Mthethwa on this 1,crowd fired 1st,police had to retaliate.Not forgetting the fact that this same crowd killed 2 police officers ,2 security guards and fellow mine workers a week before.At the end of the day every war has its casualties.

  • Johnson - 2012-08-24 20:44

    And the debate rages on: 1.Point is if you want to protest or strike, do it in a civilized manner and nobody will be killed. 2. Having said that: is it even remotely possible in South Africa - we see barbaric acts of violence by protesters. They go out to intimidate and destroy. 3.Fortunately this time, shots fired by the protesters = International law permits the right to protect themselves. Given the violent nature of these strike actions in this country, we can not blame the policeman who opened fire first, his pants must still be wet from that charge by the strikers with guns on them.

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