South Africa starts investigating mine violence

MARIKANA, South Africa (AP) — A judicial panel on Monday investigated the rocky site where South African police killed 34 striking miners in August.

Crime experts showed the commission of inquiry the scene of the police shootings that were South Africa’s worst state violence since apartheid ended in 1994. President Jacob Zuma ordered the judicial investigation to determine the causes of the police killings which shook the nation.

The police killings which shook the nation

One of the experts first pointed out where police laid barbed wire fencing that blocked thousands of people gathered on large brown boulders from running back to their informal settlement on Aug. 16. Sixteen people died near the site. Another 18 were killed across the field and on the other side of the large group of boulders. The second expert pointed to bullet marks, where shotgun casings were found, bodies laid and an emergency medical care area was set up.

The judicial panel and a large crowd of representatives for those involved in the inquiry followed the experts, after a group of protesters with the Marikana support campaign greeted them with songs and signs that read: “Don’t let the police get away with murder.”

“Don’t let the police get away with murder.”

Among those participating in inquiry is George Bizos, former lawyer for Nelson Mandela and who now represents the Legal Resources Center and the Bench Marks Foundation in the inquiry.

In addition to those killed, some 78 were injured and more than 250 arrested in the incident.

During the tour, a crime expert pointed out where bodies and shotgun cartridges were found.

Series of milestones relating to events

Monday was the first day of the 4-month-long investigation into the killings at the Marikana mines. At least 10 more people were killed in other violence, including two policemen. The commission puts the death toll in Marikana at 44, and an Associated Press count puts it at 46.

“This is very important to us,” said a Marikana miner watching the group navigating the scene of the police shootings. “I hope those involved are found out and they must be brought to jail.”

“We are still afraid,” he said of the police. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The Marikana commission of inquiry

The inquiry launched Monday focuses on violence from Aug. 10-16 at a Lonmin PLC platinum mine 94 kilometers (58 miles) northwest of Johannesburg.

The Marikana commission of inquiry, chaired by retired Judge Ian Farlam, will determine the roles played by the police, Lonmin, the National Union of Mineworkers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union. It will also determine whether any of those investigated could have put measures into place to prevent the violence.

“It is very important the truth of what happened should become clear as soon as possible,” Farlam said Monday morning at the Civic Center in Rustenburg, where hearings began before the visit to the Marikana site. “Our country weeps for this unnecessary and tragic loss of life.”

A turning point which reveals the state is willing to break the working class organizations

The police shootings of the striking miners were “a turning point which reveals the state is willing to break the working class organizations, and it’s of particular concern that the major trade unions didn’t take full action in getting permission for the gatherings,” said Peter Alexander, the South African research chair on social change at University of Johannesburg.

Alexander said he can’t recall so many people being killed for a strike since 1922, when he said mostly white miners went on strike and were killed. He noted the importance of the events before the Aug. 16 shootings, saying that the earlier killings and who was responsible for them may give more insight as to why the shot dead so many strikers that day.

16 shootings

“It’s important that the investigation reveals the truth about the killings,” said Alexander. “I’m very concerned that ordinary people could have the opportunity to collect information about the inquiry. And I’m very concerned that there is no relationship of trust between the people of the inquiry and the people of Marikana.”

He said: “I hope that it will be established that police engaged in unlawful killings, and hopefully if we can establish what happened so that a massacre like this won’t happen again.”

No family members of those killed participated in the commission’s visit to the site of the police shootings. Judge Farlam said that the tour would be recorded for them. At the meeting before the tour, the commission read the names of the dead and asked that any family stand, but none were present.

 

Source: Yahoo News

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