S Africa – 18 reported dead at Lonmin mine as police fire on miners

Mail and Guardian

A Sapa reporter at the scene said he counted 18 bodies lying next to the nearby Wonderkop squatter camp. The shooting lasted about three minutes.

Police had tried to intercept a section of the strikers gathered on top of a hill.

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The strikers were wielding pangas and chanting war songs. Police fired teargas and then used a water cannon to disperse the strikers, who retaliated by firing live ammunition at the police.

The area around the hill, which the strikers had turned into their base for the past few days, was cordoned off with barbed wire.

The strikers scattered towards the squatter camp and the nearby veld.

Police spokesperson Captain Dennis Adriao told journalists at the scene police had been “tactical” in their approach and that the situation was tense.

Police officers said talks with leaders of the radical Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) had broken down, leaving no option but to disperse them by force.

“Today is unfortunately D-day,” Adriao said.

Ten people, including two policemen, have died in nearly a week of fighting between rival worker factions at the mine, the latest platinum plant to be hit by fallout from an eight-month union turf war in the world’s main producer of the precious metal.

On Wednesday, up to 3 000 police officers, including members of an elite, camouflage-wearing riot control unit backed by helicopters and horses, confronted the striking rock-drill operators, but there were no clashes.

Before the police advance, Joseph Mathunjwa, president of Amcu, which has been on a big recruitment push in South Africa’s platinum mines, said there would be bloodshed if police moved in.

“We’re going nowhere,” he shouted through a loudhailer, to cheers from the crowd. “If need be, we’re prepared to die here.”  Read more…

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