More than 30 people died in clashes between police and workers on a wildcat strike at a South African platinum mine, a minister said on Friday, after one of the country’s deadliest days since apartheid.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa told local radio that the violence at London-listed Lonmin’s Marikana mine on Thursday started after armed workers approached officers who were cordoning off an area with barbed wire.
“The police were directing the barbed wire … when people had guns, and people were advancing as I say, with their pangas (machetes) and everything else including firearms,” he said.
He said that more than 30 had died, adding: “A lot of people were injured and the number keeps on going up.”
“This was not supposed to happen, and we have always emphasised this thing that we have laws in this country which allows people to apply for strike, for marching, for demonstration, and we still think people should not ignore the pillars of the land,” he said.
“Because if you come up with wildcat strikes and such things … it’s a very terrible situation for everybody in the community.”
Thursday’s deadly clash has already been dubbed the “Marikana massacre” by local media. Ten people, including two police, had already been killed during the weeklong strike.
A group of workers demanding a tripling of their wages began the strike on August 10, but the stay-away quickly degenerated into violent clashes between the powerful National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the upstart Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).