Death toll at Lonmin "shocking"

Police Minister has confirmed that over 30 protesters were killed during clashes with police at Lonmin mines.

Police open fire at protesting workers at the Lonmin mine in Marikana, North West on 16 August, 2012. Picture: Taurai Maduna/EWN

MARIKANA - Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Friday confirmed that over 30 protesters were killed during violent clashes with police at Lonmin mines in North West province.

"What happened is that there were a lot of people who were injured and the number keeps on going up."

Mthethwa said he has spoken to President Jacob Zuma and wants a full investigation.

"I have been in touch with the president and have requested that this matter is looked into from the beginning.

"If there is a possibility of a commission of inquiry that should be considered by the presidency."

Zuma also broke his silence about the violence saying he was utterly shocked and dismayed at the senseless killings.

The president's office released a statement on Thursday, saying he was saddened by the loss of life.

"The president is in shock at the tragic loss of life," said Zuma's spokesperson Mac Maharaj.

Meanwhile, heavily armed police officers continue to monitor Lonmin mine in the North West on Friday morning following Thursday's violent clashes.

Police have been heavily criticised for their heavy handedness during Thursday's deadly shooting, but they say had to defend themselves because protesters opened fire on them with live ammunition.

Water cannons, tear gas and stun grenades were also used to get the 4,000 strong crowd to retreat.

Several bodies lay scattered in an open field and dozens were taken to nearby hospitals.

National Police Commissioner Ria Phiyega was in Marikana on Thursday night.

In the meantime the situation remains tense with police keeping eye on demonstrators who regrouped in a nearby township.

The trouble at the mine started exactly a week ago, when some 3,000 rock drill operators embarked on an illegal strike, demanding more pay.

The strike quickly turned violent, resulting in the death of 10 people including two police officers.

On Thursday, police tried to disperse thousands of protestors who had gathered at the mine.

They said they came under attack and were forced to open fire on them with live ammunition.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) said they have sent two teams from the North West and Gauteng to investigate the killings of protesters at the Lonmin mine.

IPID spokesperson Moses Dlamini said have already started collecting evidence for their investigation.

"We know that some live ammunition was used, but we are still doing an investigation, picking up cartridges from police firearms as well as from the miners.

"We won't know who fired until investigative tests have been done."