On Thursday 16th August a terrible tragedy occurred in South Africa leaving many dead and injured. So, what caused the conflict in the first place?
Thirty-four people confirmed dead and at least 78 injured after South African police open fired on the protesting miners last Thursday. 259 people have also been arrested on various charges.
The strike first began on 10 August when the miners walked out and demanded a pay rise, but developed into several days of violence with many killed, including 2 police officers and security guards.
Many of the striking miners had accused The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) of focussing too much on politics –NUM being a crucial ally of President Jacob Zuma in the upcoming elections- and forgetting about workers’ rights.
Many of the miners live in poor housing conditions and have families to support. The families of the dead miners, who were already struggling on a low income, are now without their main breadwinner.
Elizabeth Makana, whose brother-in-law was wounded, said: “They treat the miners like dogs. The miners take the risk to dig platinum, but the people who sit in offices make the money.”
Some miners turned to The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) because of this, leading to a conflict between the two unions and the police. Both NUM and AMCU, whose relations had worsened over the years, blame each other and the authorities for the violence.
The police claim that they had no choice but to open-fire.
Riah Phiyega, spokeswoman for the South African police, said: “The militant group stormed towards the police, firing shots and wielding dangerous weapons.” “Police were forced to use maximum force to defend themselves.”
The president has announced an inquiry and forensic teams are still examining the evidence.