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South Africa mourns over 44 people killed   2012-08-24 07:12:00

Thousands of people across South Africa gathered just outside the Marikana platinum mine in Rustenburg in the North West province on Thursday for the memorial service of 44 people who died during protests .

On the memorial scene, mothers who lost sons were wailing, and fathers were groaning. Even some other participants could not hold back their tears as miners who survived the shooting narrated what happened on that fateful day.

Among the mourners were the families who lost their loved ones during the protests at the mine , friends, government officials, police and mine bosses.

On Aug. 10, about 3,000 rock drillers at the Lonmin's Marikana mine downed their tools, demanding a wage increase from monthly 4, 000 rands (about 480 U.S. dollars) to 12,500 rands.

They camped on a hill near the mine vowing not to disperse until their demands were met.

During the violence before the shooting, 10 people at the mine were killed, including two security guards and two police officers.

On Aug. 16, police clashed with the protesting miners, and 34 miners were shot dead and 78 people injured.

Phantu Phiri, 49, was one of the miners who were narrow to escape the bullets.

"We were gathering on the hill not fighting but just carrying our traditional weapons. Police wanted us to put down our weapons, but we refused," he recalled.

"They surrounded us with a security fence and when we ran to come out of the fence they started shooting," he told Xinhua.

Phiri said the memories of himself standing in the middle of bodies are still haunting him."If I did not run fast, I would be also dead," he added.

Nosisa Qwashele, a mother of three kids, had tears running down her cheeks as she told Xinhua how her husband survived the shooting.

"When my husband saw others falling down, he ran as fast as he could and came home. However, he is still under severe shock and is afraid to leave the house since that day," Qwashele said.

She expressed anger at the 485 dollars which the rock drillers are being paid at the Lonmin's platinum mine.

Lonmin is the world's third biggest platinum producer with approximately 28,000 employees. Its registered office is in London, while the company has its operational headquarters is in Johannesburg, South Africa.

"With 485 U.S. dollars we cannot send our children to better schools and we cannot feed them properly," said Qwashele.

Mahlaki Lehula is a rock driller working at the Impala platinum mine miles away from the Lonmin's mine.

He also travelled all the way with hundreds of others to attend the memorial service of the slain miners. "My heart is broken. I am short of words. It is very sad that black police officers had to shoot their black brothers," Lehula told Xinhua.

The 35-year-old man has been working in the mine for seven years. He said the 485 U.S. dollars given to rock drillers at the Lonmin's mine is an insult.

He added,"Their demand for 1,500 U.S. dollars was justified. The police who shot these people must think of the children who no longer have fathers and the wives who no longer have husbands. What happened to these people was not good."

The 31-year-old man Vuyo Maganda has worked in the mines for 10 years. He is currently the chairman of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) at the Impala platinum mine, also quite a distance from the Lonmin mine.

"We are also here to mourn our colleagues who were killed and to console their families," Maganda said.

He told Xinhua that the killings made him very angry because according to him the strikers were not killing anyone but were exercising their rights of demanding better wages. "Mine bosses make billions but workers are given peanuts. This is not right," he said. "Conditions underground are difficult and dangerous for rock drillers. Anytime rocks can fall on them and they cannot die for just 485 U. S. dollars," Maganda added.

He called on the government and the Lonmin mine to support the families of those miners who were killed.

Government officials at the memorial service called for calm and encouraged South Africans to look for ways to heal.

"We call for all to work together as partners and avoid things that will cause further violence. Let us work together for peace," Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said.

The minister told Xinhua that if those who were involved in the labor dispute had exercised their rights lawfully, the killings would have been avoided.

He said, "The mine management and the workers need to find a workable relationship. We think the meetings they are currently having will help in this regard."

The government official told Xinhua that the Lonmin mine will take care of all the burial and transport costs.

He added that the mine has also undertaken to support the families of the miners who were killed. "Families will decide when and where to bury their loved ones. The government has assigned social workers to most of the families of the deceased miners," the minister told Xinhua.

source : Xinhua     editor:: Ala
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