Update: Police Planted Weapons
South African police have been accused of planting weapons near the bodies of workers killed during strikes at the Marikana platinum mine.
Photographs taken by police suggested large knives had been placed near the bodies after they had been shot, a lawyer told an inquest into the deaths.
Thirty-four miners died when police opened fire at striking miners in August, leading to widespread shock.
The police say they were acting in self-defence.
The bloodshed occurred on 16 August, days after the deaths of 10 people, including two police officers who were hacked to death. Judges are holding an inquiry into all 44 of the deaths.
The inquiry was presented with photographs showing the bodies of the miners after the shooting – the most deadly police action since the end of apartheid in 1994.
Machetes and handcuffs
In one photograph, a dead man is seen lying on rocky ground near the mine. A second picture, taken later the same day, is identical except a yellow-handled machete is now lying under the man’s right hand.
The killing by police of more than 30 striking platinum miners in the bloodiest security operation since the end of white rule cut to the quick of South Africa’s psyche on Friday, with people and the media questioning its post-apartheid soul.
Newspaper headlines screamed “Bloodbath”, “Killing Field” and “Mine Slaughter”, with graphic photographs of heavily armed white and black police officers walking casually past the bloodied corpses of black men lying crumpled in the dust.
The images, along with Reuters television footage of a phalanx of officers opening up with automatic weapons on a small group of men in blankets and t-shirts, rekindled uncomfortable memories of South Africa’s racist past.
After over 12 hours of official silence, police minister Nathi Mthethwa confirmed that at least 30 men had died when police moved in against 3,000 striking drill operators armed with machetes and sticks and massed on a rocky outcrop at the mine, 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Johannesburg.
“A lot of people were injured and the number keeps on going up,” he said in an interview on Talk Radio 702.
One radio station caller likened the incident, at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum plant, to the 1960 Sharpeville township massacre near Johannesburg, when apartheid police opened fire on a crowd of black protesters, killing more than 50.
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