S. African bishops urge inquiry into mine violence

Women protest outside the Lonmin platinum mine Aug. 17, the day after South African police opened fire on striking miners.

CNS PHOTO | SIPHIWE SIBEKO, REUTERS

Women protest outside the Lonmin platinum mine Aug. 17, the day after South African police opened fire on striking miners.

August 27, 2012

South Africa's bishops condemned the killings at a platinum mine in Marikana and called for a judicial inquiry into the circumstances that led to the violence.

Thirty-four people died and 78 were injured Aug. 16 when police opened fire on striking miners who, armed with machetes and homemade spears, were gathered on a rocky outcrop at the mine, 100 km northwest of Johannesburg.

Another 10 people, including two policemen, had already been killed in violence at the mine since the start of an illegal strike Aug. 10.

"The senseless loss of life, especially through wanton violence, is always a tragedy and needs to be condemned in the strongest terms," the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference said in an Aug. 17 statement.

The actions of the trade unions, the Lonmin mining company and the police "need to be investigated" by an inquiry that also looks at "the living and working conditions at this mining operation," the bishops said.

"There are a lot of questions and not many answers," Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg said in an Aug. 17 telephone interview. The mine is located in his diocese.