In what some are calling the South Africa Massacre, more than 30 people were shot and killed by South African police Thursday at a platinum mine northwest of Johannesburg. The police claim they acted in self defense.
Reuters reports that a labor dispute was the cause of a worker’s strike at the mine, and it is agreed that the protestors did charge the line of police. The protestors were armed, a few with firearms and others with spears and machetes. In the preceding week, a pair of security guards and and police officers were hacked to death by spears.
“We did what we could with what we had,” Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega told a news conference on Friday. “We have seen … how they chopped our members.”
The Sidney Morning Herald reports that police were attempting to get the striking miners to disperse. Some left, but others began chanting and soon charged police. An embedded reporter told the Herald that police first used a water cannon and tear gas but opened fire when a group of protestors emerged from the underbrush and rushed the police line. The result was 34 dead, 78 injured, and nearly 300 arrested. The scale of the violence, the largest shooting since the end of apartheid, earned it the title of the South Africa Massacre.
The miners were gunned down, and there was evidence that some had engaged in a practice of witchcraft called “muti” that would supposedly protect them from the officers’ bullets.
The South Africa Massacre occurred at a mine owned by London-listed Lonmin, which has threatened to fire all workers who did not report for their shifts by Friday, but, at last report, the protestors remained armed and on strike.