Violent clashes at platinum producer Lonmin’s South African mine yesterday claimed the lives of 34 protestors and injured 78 others, the South African police chief confirmed today.
Aside from the death toll of 34 yesterday, 10 were killed last weekend, including two police officers. South African President Jacob Zuma is expected to fly out later today to the Marikana mine, 60 miles northwest of Johannhesburg.
National police commissioner Riah Phiyega said today that it was not the time for finger pointing.
Phiyega, who was only appointed to lead the police force in June, said that the police had acted in self defence against a group of protestors armed with “dangerous weapons and firearms”.
The police tried to counter the advance with water cannons, teargas and stun grenades, but were unsuccessful, she said. She added that the police members then had to employ force to protect themselves from the charging group.
Lonmin, the world’s third-largest platinum producer, is understood to be releasing a statement this afternoon.
The violence erupted after a protest march last Friday over pay.
As a result of the violence, platinum production at the mine has been severely disrupted.
Lonmin chief executive Roger Phillimore said yesterday: “We are treating the developments around police operations this afternoon with the utmost seriousness. 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.”
Alison Turner, analyst at Panmure Gordon, said: “Provided that the strike can be resolved and the mine returned to full production within two weeks there should be no impact on longer-term forecasts.”
Shares in Lonmin closed almost seven per cent down yesterday as news of the violence broke.