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Police boss says 34 miners killed, in self-defence

By Reuters | 2012-08-17 13:11:52.0 | COMMENTS [ 59 ]

Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega says a further 78 people were injured, and 259 arrested

South African police were forced to open fire to protect themselves from charging armed protesters at the Marikana mine, and 34 of the protesters were killed, Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega said on Friday.

She told a news conference in Rustenburg that 78 people were injured and 259 arrested in Thursday’s violence.

Weapons taken off the dead protesters included firearms stolen from the two police officers who were murdered earlier in the week.

“This is no time for blaming, this is no time for finger-pointing. It is a time for us to mourn...

“The police members had to employ force to protect themselves from the charging group,” Phiyega said.

  • Elaborating further, Commissioner Phiyega said the shooting happened after the police had rolled out barbed wire.

As the police deployed the barbed wire, a group of protesters tried to outflank them.

"They were met by members of the police who tried to reposte the advance with a water cannon, teargas as well as stun grenades," Phiyega said.

"The attempt was unsuccessful and the police members had to employ force to protect themselves from the charging group."

The police were closing in on the group of protesters when "the militant group stormed towards the police, firing shots and wielding dangerous weapons", said Phiyega.

"Police retreated systematically and were forced to utilise maximum force."

The leaders of the Marikana protesters had tried to no avail to get a peaceful solution throughout the week, she said further.

  • At the briefing, the police showed video footage of how two policemen were killed by a group of protesters.

The video showed police officials confronting the group, asking for weapons. The men told the police the weapons would be handed over at the mountain, and the police followed them there. At the hilltop, the incident turned violent and the two police officers were killed.

Journalists were also showed aerial photographs of the naked men doing a ritual with a sangoma.

The group was described as “pretty militant”.

Phiyega said: "By midday [Thursday] we had received information from various sources that the protesters would not end the strike peacefully and they would not leave their gathering point or disarm.

"The options were weighed and the decision taken that the SAPS needed to protect their members adjacent to the protesters."

Asked who gave the police the order to shoot, she replied: "As commissioner, I gave police the responsibility to execute the task they needed to do".

  • The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) has announced it is investigating the police’s role in the deaths of more than 30 people in a clash at Lonmin’s Marikana mine.

“The investigation will seek to establish if the police action was proportional to the threat posed by the miners,” spokesman Moses Dlamini said in a statement. “It is still [too] early in the investigation to establish the real facts around this tragedy,” he said.

Investigators were working with the criminal record centre and ballistics experts, and would focus on collecting all the relevant evidence to assist in the investigation.

Another 10 people — including two police officers, two security guards and three NUM shop stewards — were killed in separate incidents since the start of an illegal strike last Friday.

The strike was believed to be linked to rivalry between the NUM and Amcu over recognition agreements at the mine. Workers also wanted higher wages. They claimed to be earning R4,000 a month, with those living outside the hostel earning an extra R1,000. Reported demands have included pay of R12,500 a month.

The workers had based themselves on a hilltop near the mine.

Many of them were armed. They were shot when police tried to disperse the group.

Dlamini said IPID executive director Francois Beukman and a team from its national office would be briefed by an investigation team deployed at Marikana. He would then visit the scene.  

Investigators from the IPID’s offices in North West and Gauteng had been “working around the clock” since the shooting, he said.

Meanwhile, more than 50 police vehicles and at least 60 policemen were visible at the mine on Friday, ahead of a police briefing on the shootings. Two helicopters were intermittently circling the area.

Barbed wire added an extra layer of protection at the mine, which has been shut down for all except essential services.


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i agree this miners were armed, what was peaceful about that!!!they had all sorts of weapons on a strike and the police are to blame. they are given guns for a reason, if not to protect themselves and any threatning situation then why have police officers. Lets strike, holding every weapon possible it's the only way to be heard.

2012-08-20 14:57:56.0 | 0 replies

These are unskilled workers who worked in that mine for years,who were under paid and some of them are close to retirement,this was everything they had,they couldn't change jobs because of health problems,unskilled or old,some of them were injured in that mine and were never compensated,some died and their families were robbed because they didn't know the procedures to follow or were uneducated.I can give you million reasons for them to do what they did but the police have to pay for what they did to those families.After all the is no excuse for taking a life,the were alternatives on dispersing the people,u took bread from a child and u proud about that wow. I HATE POLICE.

2012-08-17 17:05:23.0 | 0 replies

I guess star88 wanted the headline to read " 34 Police Women Killed by Miners "

They were commiting a crime, which is charging at a police officer and Police are required to protect themselves by any means neccesary when attjacked. Look at the picture, do you see those weapons, do you see the guy holding the Knife, Moron

2012-08-17 16:39:46.0 | 0 replies

Inkinga enkulu kulelizwe sinohulumeni oqasha izikhulu ezinezizathu zokuthi amaphoyisa achithe igazi lezakhamizi ngaphandle kokuzihlupha ngokusebanzisa amaqhinga okuxazulula ukubulala, ngokugwema ukuchitheka kwegazi. Lokhu kuyasiqeda amathemba esinawo kuhulumeni nalolu hlobo lwezikhulu anazo.

2012-08-17 15:58:47.0 | 0 replies

Your and idiot. Nuff said.

These people where exploited by their unions NUM and Amco. Amazes me how everyone all of a sudden miss the fact where this started.

Unions and the root of all evil – MONEY. From a couple of interviews these mine workers were ready to fight and TAKE ANOTHER HUMAN LIVE for the sake of MONEY. And not their bosses lives, their own lives or the unions lives. O no! The lives from people who also deal with danger everyday for a crappy salary just like you to protect the lives of others.

As for the police – They are breadwinner two. They have wives, families, children. Will you just stand there and be killed. NO! You will either run or believe it or not - PHONE THE POLICE!

But apparently the only party with brains at the moment:-
“Its horror should not only shock us but bring to the fore how too often conflicts in this country are dealt with through violence,” IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini said in a statement.
“For too made years irresponsible leaders have spread throughout the country the culture of rebellion, lawlessness and violence as a tool of political action. Unless there is a fundamental change of culture at the highest level of government things will worsen.”
“We call on the President to order a for full, expedited and independent investigation of whether police action was justified, proportional and necessary under the circumstances.” Oriani-Ambrosini said

2012-08-17 15:57:42.0 | 0 replies


The ideal is correct but the reality is that there is already lots of money to improve the lives of the poor available so ask the question where is it and why is it not being used as intended? Now ask yourself if giving the state even more money will change this?
True that and that's why Zuma must be removed because he's not contributing towards the betterment of the poor and their living conditions. A wise leader always takes advantage of the previous leader's flaws and comes up with a tangable solution to be the masses' favourite and a better leader. What we are experiencing now was there during Mandela and Mbeki's tenure but it's just worse now under Msholozi.

"Muri u vhavhaho u bva tsindeni" As long as Zuma is the president and him being corrupt and not community building, no one should expect all these corrupt and imbalances to disappear.

2012-08-17 15:30:28.0 | 0 replies

Great Guts Riah! A COWARD LEADER would have not said what you said. PROTECT OUR POLICE BY ALL COSTS. Its high time we go back to being a Police Force not Service. Our police brothers and sisters's lives are always in danger because of stupid laws protecting CRIMINALS. Police killers must NEVER get mercy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2012-08-17 15:27:48.0 | 0 replies


The ideal is correct but the reality is that there is already lots of money to improve the lives of the poor available so ask the question where is it and why is it not being used as intended? Now ask yourself if giving the state even more money will change this?

2012-08-17 15:24:26.0 | 0 replies


are u suggesting that Public Order POLICING should be closed down? are u saying that during protest OLICE should just wait to see if they are needed or not? are u suggesting that other ppl or bystanders who normally becomes victims of such activities should not be protected? are u saying that order should not be maintained? clever hey!!!!
Firstly, Nathi Mthethwa should have went for an investigation to get ad hoc course of the problem and then deploy them police. To my knowledge through what we hear and read since the violence started, these guys wakes up to go and chill at the hill and nothing else. Something that state employees do when angered by the management - stayaway but close to where you work.

What's the originator of the violence?

2012-08-17 15:23:08.0 | 0 replies


like i said, i'm not in politics...but my question is will it be better if the mines are nationalized? will the employees get what they deserve? cos as it is, many public servants are still not satistied with their then will our nationalized mines do better if public sector itself cant do better at this point? all i'm saying is yes there should be some improvement on ppl's lives but we should clearly think this through, at this point i think we need to gradually introduce measures that will improve our economy...

anyway it's just me...
With nationalisation in place and fully under the adminisration of the state, one would say, it can be the solution towards the light at the end of the poverty tunnel that has struck the black majority. Minerals generate a lot of money and because of that, there'll be more money in the state coffers to look after the people.

Also, the millions that are given as incentives and/or bonuses to the management for private ownership will also contribute towards the betterment of the state employees' living not forgeting the grants-bound people.

Because of these foreign investors in our minerals, how much is shiped out of South Africa considering that most of them are not even investing in our country? Shipping money that can change the state of our rural areas and townships. Look at Alexandre Township, a shame when you think of tourist think of it as a tourist place instead of a proper dwelling establishment.And Zuma want to start his own Zumaville with disparities like that.

2012-08-17 15:19:16.0 | 0 replies

Yes Wives have lost husbands and children have lost fathers, but I couldn`t agree less with Riah. Police had to defend themselves against these vagabonds who have no respect for human lives. These miners started this whole s@#t when they killed those 10 people including 2 law enforcement officers and how do you justify the burning alive of a human being simply because two unions are at loggerheads as to who should be recognised by the miners? You extinguish fire with fire and right now as we speak Marikan/Lonmin is so quite one would think there are no inhabitants in that area. Why ?Beacuse the only language these miners understands is a gun with its smoldering barrel ejaculating live ammunition.Those miners were violently charging towards the police and they only stopped when those bullets ripped through their flesh as confirmed by their Leader"The writing was on the wall" Rest in peace comrades and becareful not to force your way into heaven as you will suffer twice.

2012-08-17 15:14:57.0 | 0 replies