36 killed by Police in S.African Platinum Mine Clash
Dozens of people were killed after South African police opened fire on hundreds of armed workers on a wildcat strike at a platinum mine, in one of the deadliest days of protest since apartheid.
Police gave a toll of 30 and rising, while the powerful National Union of Mineworkers said 36 had died in clashes broadcast repeatedly on national television.
The scenes of police in bulletproof vests, some riding horses, and firing into a dusty landscape evoked memories of tragic incidents under white-minority rule.
At the Marikana mine, a force of mostly black officers fired on a crowd of black workers, who police said were advancing on them with guns and machetes.
“The police were directing (unrolling) the barbed wire… when people had guns, and people were advancing as I say, with their pangas (machetes) and everything else including firearms,” police minister Nathi Mthethwa said, putting the death toll at more than 30.
South Africa's police chief says officers who killed 34 striking miners were acting in self defence.
Speaking at a news conference, Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega gave details of the bloodshed at the Lonmin PLC platinum mine in Marikana, in Rustenburg, on Thursday.
She said 78 people were wounded in the violence and 259 people arrested.
She said police were forced to "utilise maximum force to defend themselves" when they were charged by armed protesters.
"The police members had to employ force to protect themselves from the charging group," Ms Phiyega said.
Police opened fire with automatic weapons when 3,000 striking drill operators armed with machetes and sticks ignored orders to disperse.
The National Union of Mineworkers claims that 36 people have died, with a further 86 people injured.
At least another 10 people - including two police officers - have died during the protest and ensuing violence at the mine, which began a week ago. It has also drastically affected production at the site.
President Jacob Zuma said he was "shocked and dismayed" at what was one of the bloodiest police operations since the end of white-minority rule in 1994.
"We believe there is enough space in our democratic order for any dispute to be resolved through dialogue without any breaches of the law or violence," Mr Zuma said in a statement.
The politician has cut short his government visit to Mozambique to arrive in Rustenburg today.