JOHANNESBURG , South African police officers killed more than 30 miners who charged them at a Lonmin PLC platinum mine, authorities said Friday, as a national newspaper warned that a time bomb ticking over poor South Africans has exploded.
Thursday's shootings are one of the worst in South Africa since the end of the apartheid era, and came as a rift deepens between the country's governing African National Congress and an impoverished electorate confronting massive unemployment and growing poverty and inequality.
They "awaken us to the reality of the time bomb that has stopped ticking — it has exploded," The Sowetan newspaper said in an editorial. "Africans are pitted against each other ... fighting for a bigger slice of the mineral wealth of the country. In the end the war claims the very poor African -- again."
Police ministry spokesman Zweli Mnisi told The Associated Press on Friday that more than 30 people were killed on Thursday in the police volleys of gunfire during the strike, now a week old. The Star, a Johannesburg newspaper, said another 86 people were wounded. People were gathering at hospitals in the area, hoping to find missing family members among the wounded.
Makhosi Mbongane, a 32-year-old winch operator, said mine managers should have come to the workers rather than send police. Strikers were demanding salary raises from $625 to $1,563. Mbongane vowed that he was not going back to work and would not allow anyone else to do so either.
"They can beat us, kill us and kick and trample on us with their feet, do whatever they want to do, we aren't going to go back to work," he told The Associated Press. "If they employ other people they won't be able to work either, we will stay here and kill them."
Mnisi said an investigation into the shooting near Marikana, about 70 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, is underway. Political parties and labor unions, including the ANC, called for an independent inquiry.