Marikana shooting: South Africa's ANC snubs ceremonies

The BBC's Nomsa Maseko says mine workers are angry that no-one has been arrested over the killing of 34 colleagues

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South Africa's governing ANC is not attending commemorations marking the death of 34 striking miners shot by police a year ago, saying they have been "hijacked" for political reasons.

Several opposition leaders, including firebrand youth leader Julius Malema, are sitting with the miners' widows.

The government was criticised for its handling of the crisis.

It was the most deadly use of police force since the ANC came to power in 1994, ending white minority rule.

The killings shocked South Africa and hit confidence in its mining sector.

At the scene

Machetes and spears have been replaced by sticks and umbrellas - the miners say they have decided to not bring any weapons to show respect to those who were killed here last year.

They also say they want to show that they want an end to the violence.

Some miners are disappointed that the government is not here to mourn with them and also to remember those who died.

The large crowd of miners are singing struggle songs - one calls for an early election so they can "vote for a government that really cares for the people".

The police presence has intensified since this morning but they are keeping their distance from the crowd.

The proceedings have been peaceful with various religious leaders holding prayers and Lonmin management also in attendance.

Police helicopters can be seen flying above. The local ANC has said it felt "excluded" by the organisers and that is why is chose not to attend.

The country is home to about half of the world's known gold reserves and 80% of its platinum.

Prayers held

Rivalry between two unions - one allied to the ANC - was at the heart of last year's unrest.

The pro-ANC National Union of Mineworkers has been displaced as the majority union in the Marikana mine.

"The ANC finds it immoral and totally unacceptable that such a traumatic incident could be turning into a political playground" by its opponents, it said in a statement.

There are also no government officials at the events, organised by the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), which called last year's unofficial strikes and is again pushing for substantial wage increases.

It is now the biggest union at the Lonmin-owned Marikana platinum mine.

Some in the ANC fear that Amcu could form an alliance with Mr Malema, who was expelled from the party last year and who recently formed a new political grouping.

Mr Malema, who fell out with South African President Jacob Zuma and accused him of ignoring poor black South Africans, was loudly cheered when he arrived.

About 1,000 mine workers have gathered at the rocky hill, or koppie, where their colleagues were killed last year, singing songs and listening to speeches.

Religious leaders are holding prayers and there will be a minute's silence shortly after 14:00 GMT - around the time when the police opened fire on a group of striking miners.

No arrests

Mining South Africa's riches

  • Minerals and metals account for 60% of all export revenue
  • Mining contributes close to 10% of South Africa's GDP
  • 513,211 jobs - in 2011
  • South Africa is the world's biggest platinum producer, with 80% of the world's reserves
  • It has 50% of known global gold reserves

Source : South African Chamber of Mines (2012)

The police say they feared they would be attacked by a mob armed with machetes, sticks and other weapons.

In the preceding week, 10 people had been killed during violent protests, including two security guards and two police officers.

President Zuma set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the events leading to the killings.

But the BBC's Andrew Harding in South Africa says there is anger in Marikana that not a single policeman has yet been arrested over the shootings.

He says that while talks between the government, unions and business have yet to produce stability, an atmosphere of violence and intimidation endures in the area.

Earlier this week, a senior NUM official was shot dead near the mine.

Crosses at the hill near Marikana Crosses erected in memory of those killed in Marikana have been pulled up

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