South Africa’s police minister on Tuesday said his officers who shot dead 34 striking mineworkers last week had done everything in their power to prevent the slaughter.
“The events of Thursday, August 16, 2012, were not a sudden eruption but a culmination of events that were building over months and months,” Nathi Mthethwa told a special parliamentary debate on the tragedy at the Lonmin platinum mine.
“The South African Police Service is saddened by the events that unfolded on that fateful day. The police did all in their power to avert such a situation.”
The police shooting brought the death toll at the Marikana mine to 44, after 10 people were killed in inter-union clashes in the days after an illegal strike over wage demands started on August 10.
South Africa’s national police chief Riah Phiyega has said that her forces had to use maximum force after coming under attack from armed mine workers, leaving 34 people dead and 78 injured.
“The loss of life among workers and members of our police service is tragic and regrettable,” Mthethwa said.
The use of live ammunition has shocked the nation, leading to a national week of mourning with nationwide memorial services taking place on Thursday.
“It is our responsibility both as individuals and as a nation to ensure that it does not happen again,” Mthethwa said.
Rabblerousing South African politician Julius Malema on Tuesday laid murder charges against the police for the killings.
“We are here to open a case because we feel very strongly that when a murder has happened, there must be a case opened,” Malema told reporters outside the police charge office near the mine in Marikana.
“We feel that there is no case opened to investigate the murder,” said Malema, adding that a case of murder, assault and attempted murder had now been opened.
Malema, whose fiery outbursts resulted in his expulsion from the ruling African National Congress(ANC), was accompanied by miners and community leaders.
Police are investigating the 34 deaths, and the police watchdog is probing police conduct in the clash.
In addition, President Jacob Zuma is setting up a commission of inquiry to investigate the murders.
It was Malema’s second visit to the mining town since the killings.
Addressing the striking workers on Saturday, Malema laid the blame on Zuma.
“President Zuma presided over the massacre of our people, he must step down,” Malema told the crowd.
He was booted from the ANC in April for fomenting divisions within the party’s ranks.