On Thursday, August 16, police opened fire on striking mineworkers at the British-owned Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana, South Africa. Forty-five mineworkers were killed in what the South African press called a “bloodbath that recalls the worst massacres of the apartheid epoch” (Business Day). The mineworkers, together with their independent trade union, had been demanding a substantial monthly wage increase and improved working conditions. “We live like animals,” asserted one of the strikers who, like thousands of others, lives in a hut without running water.
Singing the songs of the struggle against the apartheid regime, the wives of the miners also came out into the streets, demanding that the South African government, led by the African National Congress “stop shooting our husbands and sons!” On August 18, Julius Malema, former leader of the Youth League of the ANC, declared, “Even under apartheid there never was such carnage.”
Trade unionists and human rights activists are mobilizing at South African embassies worldwide to demand an immediate halt to the repression of the strikers and the return of management to the negotiating table to meet the strikers’ pressing demands.