A weeklong strike at a South African platinum mine turned deadly Thursday when police opened fire on 3,000 protesters. Thirty-four strikers were killed in the shooting and at least 78 others were wounded.
Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega defended the shooting at the Lonmin Marikana mine, saying the officers had to use deadly force to disperse the crowd because the use of tear gas and water cannons failed. Phiyega said the strikers, who were armed with machetes, clubs, sticks and spears, attacked first.
"The police members had to employ force to protect themselves from the charging group," Phiyega said at a news conference.
"This is not time for blaming; this is not the time for finger pointing," she said. "It is time for us to mourn."
Phiyega also pointed out that 2 police officers were killed by a mob of protesters on Tuesday. Eight other people also died in similar attacks.
At least 259 protesters were arrested Thursday. They face a variety of charges, including illegal gathering, illegal possession of weapons and vandalism.
South African President Jacob Zuma visited the mine on Friday. "We are shocked and dismayed at this senseless violence. We believe there is enough space in our democratic order for any dispute to be resolved through dialogue without any breaches of the law or violence,” he said.
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