South Africans seek answers after deadly mine protest
August 19, 2012
South Africa is still reeling after a shootout between police and striking miners left 34 people dead last Thursday. That episode at a platinum mine rocked world markets. But in South Africa, the incident could also signal a major social shift in a nation that is still coming out of the shadow of apartheid.
“Violence.” ”War.” ”Massacre.”
Those are just some of the headlines in South African newspapers days after police and angry miners confronted each other at a platinum mine, leading to a deadly shootout.
Thursday’s incident at the Lonmin platinum mine has reverberated throughout Africa’s largest economy, and internationally as well.
After more than a week of violence there are now 42 dead workers, two dead policemen and a burning question: what does this mean for South Africa’s biggest industry, and its people?
“I think this also provokes a crisis for who we are, the levels of inequality in our society, how is it that this brings to the fore so graphically how the third-biggest provider of platinum in the world, Lonmin, located in the JSE [Johannesburg Stock Exchange] and the London stock exchange, which pays its CEO and executives exorbitant amounts of money, and yet the very people who dig platinum out of the ground live in the most awful of conditions. The conditions, how women are treated, all of these things, suggest that this society is riven by inequality,” he said. “How can you, after 18 years after the democratic transition, not address the basic elements of this kind of stuff?”
Unrest began last week when 3,000 workers walked out over a pay dispute. Over the next few days, eight workers and two policemen were killed in clashes. The shootout on Thursday killed 34 more.
In South Africa, considered one of Africa’s most stable nations, the Sowetan newspaper warned in an editorial that the nation could “see a snowball effect of this massacre.”