S Africa Lonmin killings: National mourning declared

The BBC's Nomsa Maseko says some feel returning to work would be an insult to those who were killed

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South African President Jacob Zuma has declared a week of national mourning for striking miners killed in violence at a platinum mine on Thursday.

At least 34 people were killed when police opened fire at the Marikana mine, north-west of Johannesburg.

A further 10 people, including two police officers, were killed in earlier clashes at the mine.

Earlier the owners of the mine, Lonmin, gave their striking workers a final ultimatum to return to work.

In a statement, Mr Zuma said the nation was in "shock and pain".

"We must this week reflect on the sanctity of human life and the right to life," he said.

Start Quote

Workers at the mine had been asking for higher wages for so long, the crowd must have reached boiling point after no-one listened to them”

End Quote Kitumetse Resident of nearby village

At least 78 people were injured in the violence and some 250 people were arrested.

Flags will fly at half mast at all flag stations in South African and missions outside the country during the mourning period, which will last from Monday until next Sunday.

On Saturday, former ANC youth leader Julius Malema called on Mr Zuma to resign over the clashes.

'An insult'

Lonmin, the world's third largest platinum producer, said the miners must be back at work by Monday or risk being dismissed.

"The final ultimatum provides RDOs [rock drill operators] with a last opportunity to return to work or face possible dismissal," spokeswoman Gillian Findlay said on Sunday, according to Agence France Presse.

Some miners dismissed the call as disrespectful to their colleagues who died.

"Expecting us to go back is like an insult. Many of our friends and colleagues are dead, then they expect us to resume work. Never," worker Zachariah Mbewu told AFP.

He added that no-one would return to work as long as they were still in mourning and that workers would only go back when management gave them what they sought.

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The miners, who are currently earning between 4,000 and 5,000 rand ($484-$605), say they want their salary increased to 12,500 rand ($1,512).

The BBC's Nomsa Maseko, in Johannesburg, says the violence has been blamed on rivalry between labour unions during the strike for better wages.

The circumstances that led police to open fire on Thursday remain unclear, but reports from eyewitnesses suggest the shooting took place after a group of demonstrators, some holding clubs and machetes, rushed at a line of police officers.

Police, armed with automatic rifles and pistols, fired dozens of shots.

The mineworkers arrested for public violence are expected to appear in court shortly.

In May 2011, the company sacked some 9,000 employees after what it described at the time as "unprotected industrial action". Lonmin and the NUM union said all were later reinstated.

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