South African police slaughter striking miners after stand-off

18 dead at British-owned platinum mine as authorities lose patience with rival factions in industrial dispute

Cape Town, Friday 17 August 2012

A South African platinum mine turned into something akin to a war zone yesterday when an attempt by riot police to break up a week-old dispute by workers resulted in the deaths of up to 18 people.

Fighting between miners from rival unions had already claimed 10 lives over the past week near the Marikana mine near Rustenburg, about 100 kilometres northwest of Johannesburg. Two of those killed were police officers who were hacked to death on Monday.

The leaders of two trade unions at Marikana – the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which has been dominant at the mine for 30 years, and the Association of Mining and Construction Union (Amcu) – blamed the London-listed mine owner Lonmin for the trouble.

Lesiba Seshoka, an NUM spokesman, said that the company had attempted to break the NUM’s dominance by granting a pay rise to a small group of rock drillers. “The company undermined the bargaining process by unilaterally offering an allowance to rock-drill operators outside the bargaining process,” he said. Continue reading