THE Bishop of Pretoria, the Rt Revd Jo Seoka, has been leading
negotiations between the Lonmin mining company and striking workers
in Marikana, South Africa.
On Thursday of last week, police opened fire on a crowd of
several thousand striking miners who were protesting outside the
mine, killing 34 people. Reports suggest that at least 78 people
were injured and 250 arrested in the clashes.
Bishop Seoka, who is President of the South Africa Council of
Churches (SACC), said on Wednesday that Lonmin executives had
"finally agreed to meet with representatives of the strikers".
He continued: "There is still a huge police presence here today,
many of the striking miners are refusing to go back to work, and
the miners' grieving families don't know if their loved ones will
even get a decent burial. The coming investigation into the
shootings must commence promptly and consist of an impartial
commission that will be able to establish responsibilities for the
incident at all levels within the police force and government, and
the top management of Lonmin."
A delegation from the SACC, including Bishop Seoka, visited the
mine last Friday. The General Secretary of the SACC, Mautji Pataki,
said: "The impression we gained is that both parties are willing to
engage one another, provided the level of hostility is reduced to
allow peaceful interaction and resolution. . .
"We call upon the police to exercise restraint in the use of
force as they seek to maintain law and order. . . The SACC
maintains that it is only through meaningful and peaceful dialogue
that all parties affected by this conflict can find a
On Sunday, the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, declared a
national week of mourning for those who had been killed. He set up
an inquiry, which, he said, "will enable us to get to the real
cause of the incident, and to derive the necessary lessons".
The Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, was due to lead
an interfaith remembrance service on Wednesday, at St George's
Cathedral, Cape Town. A statement from his office, issued on
Tuesday, said: "In keeping with the week of mourning, religious
leaders of the city will join with officials of government and
mining in a time of reflection and prayer."
Dr Makgoba said in a statement last Friday that, "whatever the
merits of the various disputes", the killings outside the mine were
"unacceptable. Even one death is one too many, and there must be an
end to this senseless loss of life.
"There must be strong, but measured and proportionate,
interventions to end this warpath and stop the killings. . . We
must also make resoundingly clear that common sense must prevail,
and that sin- cere, mature negotiation must always be the route to
solving our differences. Violence is never the answer."