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Bishop mediates after mine shooting

24 August 2012


Remembering: a congregation for a memorial service for the demonstrators gathers at the Lonmin platinum mine, on Sunday

Remembering: a congregation for a memorial service for the demonstrators gathers at the Lonmin platinum mine, on Sunday

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 solution."

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."

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