By Henry D Gombya
At least EIGHTEEN South African miners were shot in cold blood after riot police used live ammunition to break up a protest mineworkers have been staging for the last couple of days at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenberg. In what looked like a reminiscence of the old days where South African police used to attack protesters with water cannons and live ammunition, the strikers who are said to have been armed with sticks and machetes were mowed down in what can only be described as cold blooded murder.
Witnesses who called our news desk described seeing hundreds of heavily armed police officers, most of them black but under the command of a white officer line up and fire live bullets into a throng of mine workers who were protesting low wages. By the time the shooting stopped, many lay dead while an unknown number were left with severe life-threatening injuries.
The number of people killed since the strike started last Friday is now said to be 28 including four policemen and six civilians. While South African President Jacob Zuma, a stalwart of the African National Congress (ANC) fight against apartheid said he was shocked at the news and urged the country’s labour movement to bring the situation to a stop before it deteriorated further, he did not condemn the police action.
Police spokesman Capt Dennis Adriao was quoted by Reuters claiming that several days of talks with leaders of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union had broken down leaving the police with no option but to use force to disperse the strikers. “Today is D-Day,” Reuters quoted him as saying.
The strike had started at the South African platinum mine run by a London Stock Exchange listed company with offices in London called Lonmin but formerly known as the London and Rhodesia Mining and Land Company Limited (LONRHO) once owned by the late Tiny Rowland, a once quite controversial British media mogul who died 14 years ago.