News of police killing 34 striking platinum miners in South Africa dominated international press and social media sites today, as the country grappled with one of the bloodiest security operation in its post-apartheid era.
Johannesburg-listed shares of British firm Lonmin , which owns the Marikana platinum mine where employees were shot at and killed by police, fell more than 10 percent in early trade today . World platinum prices also spiked to a 5-week high above $1,450 an ounce.
Newspaper headlines screamed “Bloodbath”, “Killing Field” and “Mine Slaughter” with horrific pictures of men lying dead, as children walked by to school, circulating on the internet.
South African Police Service have so far confirmed that 34 people were killed, 78 injured and more than 240 arrested when officers moved in against 3,000 striking drill operators. Police say the striking workers were armed with machetes.
“The militant group stormed toward the police, firing shots and wielding dangerous weapons. The police members had to employ force to protect themselves from the charging group,” said police boss Riah Phiyega.
Lonmin Chairman Roger Phillimore has issued a statement expressing regret over the incident.
“We are treating the developments around police operations this afternoon with the utmost seriousness. The South African Police Service (SAPS) have been in charge of public order and safety on the ground since the violence between competing labour factions erupted over the weekend, claiming the lives of eight of our employees and two police officers. It goes without saying that we deeply regret the further loss of life in what is clearly a public order rather than labour relations associated matter,” said Phillimore
The striking employees were demanding a pay rise of about $1,000 a month, from their current wages of $5-600.
The international coverage the shooting has attracted could scare away foreign investors, analysts have warned.
“When it starts getting attention in the international news, it will make offshore investors even more nervous, not just for Lonmin and the platinum industry as a whole, but they will also worry about whether it could spread into the other sectors, like gold,” Andrew Joannou, chief investment officer at Afena Capital told Business Day, the country’s leading business paper.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate will probe the incident and the police role’s in the killings.
“The investigation will seek to establish if the police action was proportional to the threat posed by the miners,” spokesperson Moses Dlamini said.
Image via dailymaverick