Disturbing images of gun-toting police firing point blank at striking miners shocked South Africans and others around the world. Thirty-four workers fell dead in the melee – the worst case of post-apartheid state-sponsored violence since 1994.
The Marikana massacre, named after the UK-based Lonmin platinum mining complex, was denounced by labor leaders, including U.S. labor chief Richard Trumka.
"Once again, mineworkers who produce so much wealth under often dangerous daily working conditions have paid the highest price – their lives – in a completely avoidable industrial conflict," said Trumka, a former mineworker and now AFL-CIO president. "We call on the South African government to take immediate action to address the brutality."
Tony Maher, head of Australia's miners' union added: "Lonmin sowed the seeds of industrial relations by bypassing established collective bargaining processes and now threatening to sack 3,000 striking workers."
Lonmin's past safety record at Marikana was deplorable, Maher said, with six fatalities occurring in the first seven months of 2011.
Ironically, among Lonmin's non-voting executive directors is the former secretary of the Africa National Congress, now billionaire, Cyril Ramaphosa. As strike talks broke down and violence loomed, ANC leader Jacob Zuma, Ramaphosa and others were out of town.
An effort to browbeat the workers back to their jobs was called off when only a quarter of the work force showed up on Monday (Aug. 20).
Flags will be lowered to half-mast and an official day for nationwide memorial services will be held on Thursday.
Meanwhile, former ANC youth leader Julius Malema, at a miners rally, denounced Pres. Zuma for his late arrival to the incident. Zuma has presided over the "massacre of the people of South Africa," Malema charged. "How can he call on people to mourn those he has killed? He must step down."
(Source: Global Information Network)