Zuma addresses Marikana protesters

President Jacob Zuma addressed thousands of striking workers at Lonmin's Marikana mine on Wednesday.

President Jacob Zuma addresses workers in Marikana, on 22 August 2012. Picture: Taurai Maduna/EWN

MARIKANA - President Jacob Zuma told thousands of striking workers at Lonmin's Marikana mine that government sympathised with them following Thursday's shooting.

The president visited the North West town on Wednesday afternoon, almost a week after 34 people were killed in clashes.

Zuma addressed protestors near the scene of Thursday's bloody confrontation.

The week-long attacks claimed the lives of 44 people, including two police officers.

Trouble started when 3,000 rock drill operators downed tools over pay earlier in August.

Zuma said no one should have died over a wage dispute.

He told the crowd he had returned to the mining town to seek the truth about what happened on the day of the bloodbath.

The striking miners had called on the president to address them directly, and many said they were happy he finally did so.

Zuma said he wanted to visit the scene as soon as he returned from a Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) summit in Mozambique on Friday, but it was too dark.

Protest leader Xolani Nzuza recounted the events of the past week.

He told Zuma the miners were determined to keep fighting for the salary increases.

According to Nzuza, police had been unnecessarily forceful during clashes and he showed Zuma bullet casings collected from an open veld.

Protesters retreated to a nearby hill after the gathering, reflecting on Zuma's statements and deciding on a way forward.