Skip to main content

South Africa mourns 44 killed in mine clashes

From Victoria Eastwood, CNN
August 23, 2012 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Miner Mfaseni Yekwayo, at a hospital near Rustenburg on August 18, relates to South African President Jacob Zuma, left, the events leading to the miners' clash with police. Miner Mfaseni Yekwayo, at a hospital near Rustenburg on August 18, relates to South African President Jacob Zuma, left, the events leading to the miners' clash with police.
Tension at South African mine
Tension at South African mine
Tension at South African mine
Tension at South African mine
Tension at South African mine
Tension at South African mine
Tension at South African mine
Tension at South African mine
  • NEW: Lonmin closes to allow miners to attend services
  • NEW: Some workers have resumed work following the strikes
  • NEW: Company officials say no incidents occurred at the mine overnight
  • Government officials and mine workers attend the memorial service near the site of the clashes

Rustenburg, South Africa (CNN) -- South Africans wept, sang somber hymns and prayed at memorial services Thursday to mourn 44 people killed during labor protests in the nation's mining heartland.

At the main service, traditional leaders and church officials in flowing robes led the prayers near the site of the clashes at the Marikana mine, operated by Lonmin, one of the world's largest platinum producers.

Some grief-stricken mourners fainted and had to be carried out of the ceremony by relatives and friends.

Various government officials attended the main ceremony, but police officers were not welcome, at the request of the miners.

Tension, disbelief cloud mine dispute
Worker dissatisfaction in South Africa
S. Africa mine CFO: Violence shocked us

Of the dozens killed at the Marikana mine, 34 died in a hail of gunfire from police officers, who said they shot at the machete-armed protesters in self-defense on August 16. At least 78 others suffered injuries.

What's behind the Marikana massacre?

Lonmin was closed to allow miners, some of whom have returned to work despite the strikes, to attend the memorial services. Company officials said no incidents occurred at the mine overnight.

Strikes at the mine started two weeks ago when thousands of rock drillers demanded higher wages. Lonmin rejected the demand and called the strike illegal.

Violence intensified last week when police fired live ammunition into a crowd of protesters, killing 34 people and sparking a national outcry.

The protesters, armed with machetes and sticks, defied orders to lay down their weapons, posing a threat to police officers, according to authorities.

Ten others died in the earlier days of the protests, including two police officers who were hacked to death.

A rivalry between two unions that wield a lot of power and influence in the nation added to the tension. The unions, accused of trying to outdo each other in negotiating wages, denied instigating the clashes.

Thousands protest at scene of mine shootings

The memorial service comes as workers at two more platinum companies in the northwest echoed Lonmin workers, signaling spreading labor discontent.

About 1,000 workers gathered at nearby Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine on Wednesday to voice their discontent. They returned to work a day later.

"We congratulate the workers for refusing to be misled by people with political ambitions and for returning to work" said Sydwell Dokolwana, a regional secretary for the company.

Across the street from Marikana, at a mine owned by Anglo American Platinum mine, a group of workers gave management until Friday to respond to a list of demands. The company said workers have not made any threats to go on strike.

South African President Jacob Zuma addressed the miners at the Marikana site Wednesday and said he has launched a commission of inquiry to investigate the killings.

"We want the truth," Zuma said. "This is painful to all of us. It is not acceptable for people to die where talks can be held."

Grievances, fears of instability spread to other South African mines

CNN's Karen Smith contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0507 GMT (1307 HKT)
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1215 GMT (2015 HKT)
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0006 GMT (0806 HKT)
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.