South Africans react to mining ‘massacre’
South Africans react to mining ‘massacre’
Residents express outrage and dismay at Marikana shooting, where 34 people were killed and 78 others injured.
It has been described as the most violent police operation in post apartheid South Africa.
Thirty-four people were shot dead and 78 others injured on August 16, when police opened fire on striking miners outside the Lonmin mine in the country’s north west province.
While police say the incident was an act of self-defence against a mob wielding clubs, machetes and handguns, questions are being asked about why police resorted to automatic rifles and live ammunition to disperse the crowd.
Many South Africans are outraged by the incident, and see it as part of a larger story of growing frustration at rising income and social inequality, poor service delivery and a state determined to squash organised dissent.
Jacob Zuma. South Africa’s president, has called for a commission of inquiry into the shootings, but many feel the damage might have already been done.
Al Jazeera spoke to South Africans from different walks of life to get their perspectives.
Zola Valashiya, 23, law student, University of the Free State
“South Africa has a new massacre to add to its list. The now-dubbed ‘Marikana Massacre’ will probably the most abhorred, simply because it occurred in ‘post-apartheid-new democracy-constitutional’ South Africa.
“The incident resembled the conduct of an oppressive unforgiving police force we know all too well. We, as South Africans, pledged to never let such atrocities occur under the watchful eye of the constitution.
“Now that ghost has come back to haunt us and all the fears we locked in the back of our minds and in the basements of our hearts returned with it. The use of deadly force is justifiable in certain circumstances within certain limits and the constitution supports this ‘justifiable harm’.
“However that’s not really what we should be discussing, as South African society, rather how did we let the brewing tensions behind the rival mineworkers’ and their unions at Lonmin Mines get to the point where the police have to consider using deadly force?
“This could have, and should have, been avoided – as South Africa has had enough experience with ‘violent crowd’ scenarios for protocols and procedures to have been developed in light of preserving life and in upholding the rights enshrined in our sacred constitution, as far as possible, before taking all those rights away, especially the right to life.”
|Aasia Fredericks, 30, communications worker|
“When faced with tragedy, I think we’d like to believe there’s only one party to blame for what has happened at the mine this week.
“However, [when] self-serving unions and corporates [are] coupled with workers who have had to endure terrible living and working conditions, you have a problem.
“Add to that an unskilled police force and we have created a perfect storm. As South Africans, we tend to live in an echo chamber and many live oblivious to this tragedy. This will be seen as a black problem; many people can’t or won’t empathise.
“Unless we start focusing on bridging the gap between the socioeconomic classes, the disenfranchised will rise up and bring South Africa to a standstill. I believe that this is only the beginning of our own ‘African Spring’.
“The ‘people shall govern’ will be more than just a party slogan in the next few years.”
|Tshonwe Idah Thethiwe, 33, and Nyefolo Linah, 27, domestic workers|
“The cops are wrong because they used guns. The owner of the mine can resolve this now. Even Zuma needs to get involved. I feel so bad, because I do not think people should be killed in that fashion.
“I blame the cops, because they killed the people. Sometimes, they should be using rubber bullets or tear gas, but to use live fire is not good.
“I think people in South Africa are feeling bad. What happened was not right. You know those people they killed, were people of South Africa and the police were people of South Africa – so I feel bad.
“I think the police need to do their job. They have no business killing people. The people in the mine have a dangerous job. Maybe they were right to strike.
“You see, when you are inside the mine, everything is dangerous, that’s why the people want the extra money, because they know how it works. They have no choice but to ask for better wage.”
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