South Africa's Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula on Tuesday August 21 apologised to striking miners where the police on August 16 killed 34 of them in clashes that left 10 other people dead. The shootings took place at Marikana platinum mine near Rustenberg, about 114 km northwest of Johannesburg.
According to Al Jazeera Television, Mapisa-Nqakula - the first government official to visit the site since last week's killings - pleaded with the aggrieved workers to forgive what happened. She admitted that the killings were wrong and apologised on behalf of government. After a week of national mourning, memorial services are expected to take place today nationwide.
Meanwhile, religious leaders yesterday August 22 launched efforts to mediate an end to the conflict at the mine. The Bench Marks Foundation, a faith-based group which monitors corporate performance, said talks between Lonmin, the owners of the mine and workers' representatives have been taking place since Monday.
Miners on Tuesday echoed criticism as to why President Jacob Zuma had not yet addressed them. Zuma returned to South Africa from a regional summit in neighbouring Mozambique on Friday August 17 to deal with the crisis. He flew directly to Marikana where he visited wounded miners in hospital, but did not talk to the strikers. A spokesman for the strikers, Xolani Ndzuza, told an inter-ministerial team investigating the shootings that if President Zuma truly cared about their wellbeing, he should ensure they get the pay rise they are demanding, the Mail & Guardian newspaper reported.
The police claimed they opened fire on the miners - who were demanding a 300 per cent pay rise - after they tried to attack them with clubs and machetes. Rock drillers were demanding that their monthly salary of 4,000 Rand (about FCFA 254,000) be increased to 12, 500 Rand (about FCFA 793,000).