Mine violence threatens South Africa′s Zuma | News | DW | 19.08.2012
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Mine violence threatens South Africa's Zuma

South Africa's ruling ANC party has come under growing pressure in the wake of mine protests, which left 34 strikers dead. President Jacob Zuma has ordered an inquiry into the incident, but some activists want more.

Controversial former youth leader of Zuma's African National Congress (ANC), Julius Malema, called on the President to resign on Saturday in the wake of the deaths at the Marikana platinum mine to the north-west of Johannesburg.

"The minister of police must step down because this massacre was committed under his supervision. The same thing with President Zuma, he must step down," Malema reportedly told locals in at the mine site in Rustenburg.

President Zuma called an investigation into the killings on Friday, saying the incident had been "shocking."

"This is unacceptable in our country. We have to get to the truth," Zuma said.

Police chief argues self-defense

The circumstances that led police to open fire remain unclear. But South Africa's recently appointed police chief Riah Phiyega said officers were acting in self-defense after militant strikers "stormed toward the police, firing shots and wielding dangerous weapons."

South African President Jacob Zuma attends 32nd summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) at Maputo's Joaquim Chissano Conference Centre on August 17, 2012 in Maputo. Southern African leaders meet until August 18 in Maputo for a summit that will try to nudge Madagascar and Zimbabwe toward new elections under 'roadmaps' that are a test of the region's commitment to democracy. Zuma will cut short his visit to Mozambique to visit the Lonmin Marikana mine in Rustenburg where up to 36 striking miners were killed in a clash with police yesterday. AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/GettyImages)

Jacob Zuma cut short a trip to a regional summit in Mozambique to travel to the mine

She said police had only used live ammunition after negotiations and crowd control tactics, including the use of tear gas, had failed.

Unrest flared at the platinum mine earlier in the week, initially as a confrontation between two rival mining unions. The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) is a rival body seeking to challenge the long-dominant National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). The NUM is closely allied to Zuma's ANC party.

The striking workers were also calling for pay rises in the initial protests, saying their pay should be more than doubled. According to a local business report on the iol.co.za website, the rock drill operators are currently paid 5,000 South African rand (489 euros, $605) per annum and were seeking 12,500 rand instead. An ounce of platinum currently costs over $1,400.

Many relatives of miners who have been missing since Friday say the fate of their loved ones is still unclear.

ccp/av (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)