Strike at South Africa mine turns deadly

A police vehicle takes position as miners stage a sit-in close to a South African platinum mine in Rustenburg, 100 km northwest of Johannesburg on August 15, 2012.

Jeremy Hobson: To South Africa, where 34 workers have been killed by police at the platinum mine; 78 were wounded. The workers were striking -- and some were armed -- when police charged in.

For the latest, here's reporter Gretchen Wilson  in Johannesburg.


Gretchen Wilson: Police say they had tried to disperse the crowd of 3,000 – rock drill operators who had gathered on a hill near a mineshaft. Many were armed. Most had been there since last Friday. That’s when workers walked out of their job demanding higher wages. Ten people, including two police officers, were killed in the days leading up to yesterday’s shooting.

The National Union of Mineworkers represents some of the workers at Lonmin. It did not endorse the strike action, which was led by a rival union. Spokesman Lesiba Seshoka calls yesterday’s shooting a “turning point for the country.”

Lesiba Seshoka: The last time we had so much confrontations was during the dark years of apartheid.

He said the country needs an industry-wide discussion with the mining companies, government, and – most importantly -- the miners themselves. One of the problems is that workers see little benefit from the profits generated by the mining companies. Many still live in dismal conditions.

Seshoka: At every corner of South Africa, communities are rising up. They are saying, 'Look, there is a beautiful mine here. But we have no development. The only development we have is a road that leads to the mine.'

Police say the shooting is now under investigation.

In Johannesburg, I’m Gretchen Wilson for Marketplace.

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