South African President, Jacob Zuma has described the killing of more than 30 protesting mine workers in a clash with the police as shocking.
In a statement from the presidency Zuma said he was shocked and saddened at the way the wage dispute led to the tragic loss of so many lives.
“We are shocked and dismayed at this senseless violence. We believe there is enough space in our democratic order for any dispute to be resolved through dialogue without breaches of the law or violence.
“I have instructed law enforcement agencies to do everything possible to bring the situation under control and to bring the perpetrators of violence to book. “We extend our deepest condolences to the families of all who have lost their lives since the beginning of this violent action,” Zuma said.
Meanwhile, the Police Minister’s office said that police had done their best in a volatile situation.
“The minister is considering requesting the president to institute a full inquiry into this whole situation, not just around what happened today,” Zweli Mnisi, police spokesman said.
He said there was little the police could do when faced with armed men and “hard core criminals”.
“Now what should police do in such situations when clearly what they are faced with are armed and hardcore criminals who murder police?”
Mnisi said the police initially tried to disperse the crowd, using water cannons and teargas, but this did not help the situation.
“We had a situation where people armed to the teeth, attacked and killed others, even police officers and, one of the firearms used was that of a deceased police officer,” Mnisi said.
In his reaction Secretary General Confederation of South Africa Trade Union (COSATU) Zwelinzima Vavi, said. the incident must have been planned well ahead.
“Broadly we believe there is an orchestration, a planned violence, because the violence people are seeing today has been going on since January.
“Scores of people have been killed and systematically targeted. We can’t put our finger on it, but someone is orchestrating that violence,” Vavi said.
He said COSATU was concerned about the loss of lives and hoped the matter would be resolve through the intervention of the leadership of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).
The AMCU, Secretary-General Jeff Mphahlele said the killings happened after their failed meeting with Lonmin’s management, who refused to address the striking workers about their demands.
“There was no evidence that the workers who were sitting on the hilltop fired any shots at the police.
“Prior to the killings, we tried to talk to the police and pleaded with them to refrain from using force but they threatened us with guns,” he said adding that the union has called for an investigation.