Mine owners say sorry to families of slain workers as crowds gather to commemorate last year’s killing of 34 miners.
South Africa has marked the first anniversary of the deaths of 34 people killed during a wage-related strike at a platinum mine in Marikana last year.
More than 5,000 people on Friday filled the field around the two hills outside Marikana where many of the killings took place last year.
The victims, 34 of them miners at the platinum mine in the North-West province, were shot and killed by police in a crackdown reminiscent of the apartheid-era police brutality. Seventy-eight people were injured in the violence.
Police said they opened fire on the miners in self-defence.
The killing of the 34 miners was preceded by the deaths of 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards.
The strike began on August 10 last year when Lonmin rock drillers pressed demands for a monthly salary of $1,251 .
More workers joined the strike and the protesters gathered at a hill near Nkaneng informal settlement carrying weapons, such as pangas, spears, knobkerries, and iron rods, according to the Sowetan newspaper.
Speakers on Friday’s commemoration ceremony, especially representatives of the church, reiterated a message of peace and reconciliation.
The mood at the commemoration was festive at time but miners say they haven’t forgotten what happened last year. They said they have not given up on their original demand of a monthly salary of the equivalent of $1,250.
Meanwhile, the ruling ANC party and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) as well as government were conspicuous in their absence at the commemoration which was attended by various opposition parties, members of civil society and families of the deceased. Their absence has been interpreted as a snub and is set to further politicise the massacre.
Meanwhile, the Marikana mine owners said “sorry” to the families of the slain workers.
Several violent deaths in the area following the Lonmin strike have been blamed on rivalry between the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and the NUM.
Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s president, set up a commission of inquiry chaired by retired Judge Ian Farlam to investigate the massacre. The commission began holding public hearings in October 2012.