Lonmin death toll could climb to 20

Eyewitness News understands the death toll from the Lonmin mine violence could be as high as 20.

Police look over at Lonmin’s Marikana mine workers who were protesting on 16 August, 2012 for more wages. Picture: Taurai Maduna/Eyewitness News.

JOHANNESBURG - Eyewitness News understands the death toll from Thursday's violent clashes at Lonmin's Marikana Mine could be as high as 20.

Police opened fire on protesters after they refused to hand over their weapons and disperse from a hilltop.

It is understood some protesters were carrying guns and opened fire on officials.

Paramedics are on the scene attending to dozens of injured people and the area has been cordoned off.

National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega is expected to arrive at the North West mine to assess the situation.

Police are scheduled to brief the media on the official death toll figures.

Demonstrators regrouped at a nearby township but the situation appears to be calm.


It is believed rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers (Num) and upstart union Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) sparked the attacks.

The trouble started when 3,000 rock drill operators embarked on an illegal strike over pay on Friday.

Num's Lesiba Seshoka condemned the violence, saying union leaders are trying to find a solution to the problem.

He said the union was "disappointed and saddened" by Thursday's shooting.

Rival union ACMU also slammed the incident.

General Secretary Jeffry Mphahlele said police should have used rubber bullets to disperse the protesters.

"We have received the news with shock and dismay, because the protest did not warrant that kind of action from the police. If you look at the footage, it was a total massacre of innocent lives."

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) also condemned the incident.

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said the violence was started by breakaway union AMCU, which is part of a conspiracy to destabilise South Africa's trade union industry.

"We need immediate action to arrest the perpetrators of the violence. We need to look at who is behind these breakaway unions and deal with it politically."