16 August 2012

South Africa: Chanting Heard at Lonmin

Photo: Greg Marinovich/Daily Maverick
Striking workers at Lonmin's Marikana mine. The shooting erupted when police sought to disperse armed, striking workers who had gathered on a hill, in the area that had already seen several deaths in violent protests in the past week.

Johannesburg — Chanting could be heard from an informal settlement near the Lonmin mine in Marikana, North West, on Thursday evening, after a shooting left at least 18 people dead or wounded.

It was not clear if the group, who were singing liberation songs, were armed, but police were keeping watch.

The shooting erupted when police sought to disperse armed, striking workers who had gathered on a hill, in the area that had already seen 10 deaths in violent protests the past week.

It was not immediately clear who fired the first shots.

After a call for the miners to disarm themselves earlier, the group --singing and hitting their spears against pangas -- starting moving down the hill to a nearby informal settlement.

The police tried to intercept them using water cannons, teargas and stun grenades.

The workers started running in different directions, some heading for the open veld and others toward the informal settlement.

A Sapa reporter on the scene said gunshots could be heard from the police, which lasted for three minutes.

Police on the scene said workers shot at them first before they opened fire. The shooting left at least 18 people dead or wounded. They were seen lying on the ground.

Police were not immediately available to comment on the number of dead and wounded in Thursday's shooting.

An uneasy calm returned to the Marikana mine area on Thursday evening as paramedics attended to those who were hit.

Policemen involved in the shooting were returning to their bases as two helicopters circled the area around the hill where the strikers had gathered.

Those who already died in violent protests at the mine included two security guards and two police officers.

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