South African press condemns mine shooting

Striking miners chant slogans outside a South African mine in Rustenburg Armed strikers were in no mood to compromise on their pay demands

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South African press commentators have voiced outrage at the fatal clashes at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine near the South African capital, Pretoria. More than 30 people died when police opened fire on a crowd of several thousand striking miners.

While a majority of commentators express sadness and condemn the violence, some readers support the actions of the South African Police Service (SAPS). Several newspapers pin the blame for the violence on rival unions.

Press anger

The mine violence dominates the South African media. In an editorial headlined "African lives cheap as ever", the popular Johannesburg-based newspaper, The Sowetan, condemns the "calamity".

"This is an abnormal country in which all the fancy laws are enacted and the constitution is hailed as the best on earth. All the right noises are made and yet the value of human life, especially that of the African, continues to be meaningless. That's what Marikana means," the editorial says.

The paper calls for "drastic action", warning that the country could "see a snowball effect of this massacre".

The editorial has prompted many reader comments, with opinion split over who should be held responsible for the violence. Reader "somaartakeit" questions why the miners were "armed to the teeth" during the protest.

"Were police expected to wrap them up in the cotton wool as they destroy property and possibly more lives? Yesterday's blood bath could have been worse had the police not stood their ground against violent protesters who were brandishing machetes," the reader says.

Another reader, "HisnameisAstro!!!", also supports the police, saying: "The marchers that were shot were actually charging at the police before they were shot. I feel no sympathy for them... The union leaders should be held accountable."

'Horrifyingly familiar' scenes

An editorial in the privately-owned Times Live website says the scenes from Marikana were "horrifyingly familiar for all the wrong reasons".

"They seemed to be located in a past South Africa where stand-offs between police and civilians were ordinary sights. But this was no apartheid moment. These scenes are part of our present," the paper says.

The editorial directs blame at the two rival unions, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the new Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which it says were "allowed to act with impunity and sacrifice the lives of their own members and others in a battle for supremacy".

A commentator in the national Business Day newspaper website says the shootings "have changed labour relations in the mining industry forever" and that this would further complicate "an already complicated mining regime". The writer adds the NUM has focused on its political connections with the ruling ANC "to the detriment of its core mandate".

A commentary in the privately-owed Mail & Guardian weekly, headlined: "A tinderbox of discontent", notes that "violence has become the modus operandi of such strikes, and Lonmin is no exception".

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here

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