New investigation indicates South African miners were murdered by police

Yellow police paint marks where the bodies of some of the 34 men killed by police at Marikana, South Africa were recovered by forensics. Some of the rock crevices where bodies were found indicate the victims were hunted down and shot at close range. Not a single policeman was reported wounded on August 16.
Credit: Greg Marinovich

A Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer's investigation into what exactly lead to 34 deaths at South Africa's Lonmin mine earlier this month has revealed a new and troubling dimension to the violence.

Greg Marinovich, in an article for South African website The Daily Maverick, reports through pictures and forensic evidence that the protesters were murdered "in cold blood" by a vengeful police force, alleging that a large part of this story was not captured by the media. 

During the week of Aug. 16, nearly 3,000 striking workers demonstrated on a hill over a platinum mine called Marikana. Earlier in the week, miners had killed two police officers and clashes had left several miners dead. But on the day in question, it now appears that police went far outside of protocol, using tanks to crush demonstrators, firing live rounds from a helicopter and shooting some strikers at point-blank range at the top of the hill.

More from GlobalPost: Police fire on workers at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine (VIDEO)

Marinovich spoke with 'Themba,' a miner present at the scene, who described his visits to the hospital after the massacre.

“Most people who are in hospital were shot at the back. The ones I saw in hospital had clear signs of being run over by the Nyalas [armored trucks],” he said. “I never got to go to the mortuary, but most people who went there told me that they couldn’t recognise the faces of the dead (they were so damaged by either bullets or from being driven over).”

After evaluating blood saturation levels and the terrain where the bodies were found, as well as conducting interviews with miners like Themba, Marinovich accuses the police charged with maintaining order at the demonstration of "hunting men like beasts," saying the marks of blood on the boulders on the hill and forensic markings done by investigators after the incident "tell of tens of murders at close range, in places hidden from the plain sight."

More from GlobalPost: Jacob Zuma orders inquiry into South Africa mine shootings

But why would the police turn on the miners this way?

Marinovich looks at the events three days earlier — Aug. 13 — for answers, but finds none. There are two stories: one from the police and one from the miners, each telling a different tale that ends with two dead policemen and two dead miners. He says that no matter the story, however, the miners who were killed on Aug. 16 did not deserve to die at the hands of the police.

"Let us be under no illusion. The striking miners are no angels. They can be as violent as anyone else in our society. And in an inflamed setting such as at Marikana, probably more so. They are angry, disempowered, feel cheated and want more than a subsistence wage. Whatever the merits of their argument, and the crimes of some individuals among them, more than 3,000 people gathering at Wanderkop did not merit being vulnerable to summary and entirely arbitrary execution at the hands of a paramilitary police unit."

For more of GlobalPost's coverage of organized labor, check out our Special Report "Worked Over: The Global Decline in Labor Rights."

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