More than 30 people have been killed in a shooting at a mine in South Africa
More than 30 people have been killed in a shooting at a mine in South Africa's North West province, the country's police minister says.
Police shot at the workers who were protesting on Thursday afternoon over pay at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana, some 100km northwest of Johannesburg.
Asked in an interview, on South Africa's Talk Radio 702, whether he could confirm reports of at least 30 deaths, Nathi Mthethwa, the police minister, said "Yes."
He later clarified: "I'm talking yesterday only."
"Police did everything they could ... but people [the miners] said they were not leaving and are prepared to fight,” he told the radio station.
He defended the police, saying officers had come under fire from the miners.
Police said some 3,000 striking drill operators armed with machetes and sticks ignored orders to disperse. Witnesses said they had opened up with a water cannon first, then used stun grenades and tear gas to try and break up the crowd.
Zweli Mnisi, the police ministry spokesman, said an investigation into the shooting has begun.
On Thursday, the crowd of striking miners had charged a line of officers trying to disperse them, but it remained unclear what sparked the charge, the spokesman said.
The shooting happened after police failed to get the striking miners to hand over machetes, clubs and other weapons.
"We had a situation where people who were armed to the teeth, attack and killed others - even police officers," Mnisi said in a statement on Thursday night.
Initial reports had put Thursday's death toll at 12 people killed. South African media reported that there was no more violence reported in the area overnight.
The incident, captured by Reuters photographers, drew condemnation from the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, social media users and evoked comparisons with apartheid-era brutality.
Jacob Zuma, South Africa's president, on Thursday said he was "shocked and dismayed at this senseless violence. We believe there is enough space in our democratic order for any dispute to be resolved through dialogue without any breaches of the law or violence".
"We call upon the labour movement and business to work with government to arrest the situation before it deteriorates any further," Zuma said in a statement, in what appeared to be one of the bloodiest police operations since the end of white-minority rule in 1994 in Africa's biggest economy.
South African newspaper, The Sowetan reported on Thursday that police officers had earlier said that negotiation with leaders of the rival union Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) had broken down, leaving no option but to disperse them by force.
"Today is unfortunately D-day," Dennis Adriao, police spokesman, was quoted as saying on Thursday.
Earlier on Thursday, Lonmin said in a statement that striking workers would be fired if they did not appear at their shifts on Friday.
"The striking [workers] remain armed and away from work,'' the statement read. "This is illegal."
The unrest at the Lonmin mine began on August 10, as some 3,000 workers walked off the job over pay in what management described as an illegal strike.
Those who tried to go to work on Saturday were attacked, management and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said.
On Sunday, the rage became deadly as a crowd killed two security guards by setting their car ablaze, authorities said.
By Monday, angry mobs killed two other workers and overpowered police, killing two officers, officials said.
Officers opened fire that day, killing three others, police said.
The protest and ensuing violence, which began a week ago, have killed at least 10 people there, including two police officers. It has also drastically affected production at the mine.
South Africa gets woman police chief
South African President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday fired his police chief
By JOHANNES MYBURGPosted Wednesday, June 13 2012 at 10:35
South African President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday fired his police chief, who is implicated in suspect property deals, and replaced him with first woman head of the scandal-tarnished service.
Mr Zuma removed controversial police commissioner Bheki Cele from the post after a commission of enquiry found him "unfit for office" over leases for police offices at far above market rates.
"Having thoroughly considered the report of the board and applied my mind thereto, I've decided to release General Cele from his duties," Mr Zuma told a news conference.
He also announced a cabinet reshuffle, naming former Prisons minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to replace unpopular Defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu, who now heads public services.
Ms Sisulu, daughter of anti-apartheid leader Walter Sisulu, had numerous clashes with soldiers and refused to report to Parliament on her activities.
Transport minister Sibusiso Ndebele was also axed after a disastrous toll project on Johannesburg's main roads was stalled amid public protests.
Three years into his term, Zuma has become known for regular cabinet reshuffles, the previous one being conducted less than a year ago. The style is a marked shift from former president
Mr Thabo Mbeki, who kept ministers despite roiling controversies.
Ms Mangwashi Phiyega was appointed the new national police commissioner with immediate effect.
A technocrat with considerable management experience, she has been a trustee of Nelson Mandela's foundation and an executive at Barclays-owned banking group Absa.
Appointed in 2009, Cele was accused over irregular leasing deals for police offices from business tycoon Roux Shabangu, who was paid high above market prices for the buildings.
Known for his flamboyant lifestyle, including flashy clothing topped with a black cowboy hat, Cele caused uproar when he was quoted as telling police to "shoot to kill" suspected criminals shortly after taking office.
Zuma described him as good at policing but bad at maths, saying overall serious crime fell by five per cent between 2009 and 2011 but noting that investigations found the police riddled with adminstrative "deficiencies".
South Africa's police service has been wracked with successive scandals.
Cele's predecessor Jackie Selebi, a former Interpol president, is serving a 15-year jail sentence for accepting gifts from a convicted drug trafficker.
| Full Story