South Africa remembers dead at Lonmin's Marikana mine

Navdip Dhariwal said police were keeping a low profile at the Marikana service

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Events are taking place across South Africa to remember the 44 people killed in recent violence at the north-western Marikana platinum mine.

A hymn-filled memorial service at the Lonmin-owned mine is being attended by church leaders, politicians and thousands of mourners.

Reports of worker action at two other platinum mines have added to industry fears that the unrest is spreading.

The price of platinum has leapt to its highest since May.

A week ago, 34 miners died when police opened fire at the mine, where workers were on strike to demand higher pay.

Previously 10 people, two of them police officers, had died in violent clashes.

The mine has been closed as a result of the unrest.

Police absent

At the scene

Preachers, church leaders and traditional leaders took turns to pay their respects to the 44 killed.

The mood is one of terrible grief and loss with some relatives passing out, and many of the women crying uncontrollably. At one point the health minister was seen supporting some of those who had collapsed in tears.

There is a palpable sense of anger too - particularly directed at the government. One woman said: "We are expected to grieve our men yet it was the government who sent the police to kill us - they killed our men within minutes."

The police have kept their distance from the site - there is no visible police presence. The miners had warned them to stay away as tensions remain high and there are rumours that some in the community want to take revenge.

Politicians, religious leaders from all denominations, and thousands of workers and members of the local community are attending a memorial service at a church near the mine to commemorate all those who have died in the violence.

Among those due to attend the service was the head of President Jacob Zuma's office, Collins Chabane.

Correspondents at the service say the police - seen by many there as perpetrators of the massacre - are keeping a very low profile.

Politicians are also being criticised by speakers, who are urging them not to try to make political capital out of the deaths.

At one point the service was disrupted by green-clad members of the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), who walked to the front of the marquee brandishing sticks and machetes, but the service soon resumed.

Ahead of the memorial, a traditional prayer service was scheduled to ritually cleanse the spot where the 34 strikers were shot dead by police.

Services were also expected in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Mthatha - a city in the rural Eastern Cape province. Many miners were migrant labourers from around the country and the bodies of some of the dead have already been returned to their home villages, reports Agence France-Presse.

Action spreads
Several hundred workers down tools at the Royal Bafokeng Platinum Mine on Wednesday in Rustenburg, in a dispute over pay Hundreds of workers downed tools to demand a pay rise at the nearby Royal Bafokeng Platinum Mine

The deadly clashes have thrown South Africa into a frenzy of outrage and grief, say correspondents.

President Zuma has rejected criticism that his handling of the situation hurt investor confidence, adding that he is confident that South Africa is in control of the situation.

But fears expressed by analysts and industry executives that unrest could spread to other parts of the mining sector were given weight with reports of worker action at two other platinum mines.

The world's top platinum producer, Anglo American Platinum, said it had received a broad list of demands from its South African workers.

Meanwhile, some 500 workers at a shaft in the nearby Royal Bafokeng Platinum Mine downed tools, demanding a pay increase and reportedly blocking fellow miners from going to work.

Mr Zuma has expressed sympathy with some of the grievances expressed by the Marikana miners, saying the mining sector can afford to increase wages.

He threatened companies that fail to raise miner housing standards with the cancellation of their mining licences.

Visiting the mine on Wednesday, Mr Zuma told workers he "felt their pain" and promised a speedy and thorough investigation of the shootings.

Negotiations
Map

On Tuesday, British-owned Lonmin dropped its threat to fire workers if they failed to end their strike after many workers ignored the ultimatum. The company says the strike is illegal.

Religious leaders have brokered talks between the Lonmin management and workers in an attempt to break the deadlock in the dispute over pay.

No unions were involved because "they already failed us", Zolisa Bodlain, one of five workers who met managers, told the BBC - but the workers vow that they will not back down even without the unions' help.

Part of the background to this complex dispute is the rivalry between two unions - the long-established National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the newly-formed AMCU, which is more militant.

Police said they opened fire last week because strikers wielding machetes and clubs had refused to lay down their weapons.

The striking miners say they are currently earning between 4,000 and 5,000 rand (£305-£382: $486-$608) a month and want their salary increased to 12,500 rand.

The company says most workers are paid about 10,500 rand, if bonuses are added.

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