People are calling it the worst display of violence in South Africa since the times of apartheid in the 90s. Violent protests by striking miners in South Africa have resulted in dozens of fatalities. The miners work in platinum mines for Lonmin PLC. The miners are protesting their current meager salaries of 5600 rand ($650 United States). They are seeking a minimum increase to at least 12500 rand ($1562 United States). In the days leading up to the shooting, crowd control techniques were used by riot police including tear gas. Protests continued to get more violent as protesters brutally killed two policemen with machetes and even burned two mine security guards to death. After a long heated exchange between the police sent in by the South African government and the miners, the miners charged and police fired on charging miners.
It is difficult to discern which group is more at fault here, the out of hand protesters or the police. On one side, the miners have been treated unfairly for years in a suppressive country where the gap between rich and poor is billions of dollars. The miners were fed up with meager wages and poor conditions and considered striking to be the only sure method of action so they could support their families. But, the police were also victims; they were only trying to protect themselves from angry charging miners that have already shown they are capable of killing. They fired upon the crowd to control them and save their own lives. The miners consider the shooting to be excessive, but the policemen and government consider it to be necessary for protection and order. This is another example of mob violence gone awry between two sides of angry people. Personally, I do not believe there is strong case that either side is solely at fault. Both sides are right in their own way, which is why we as outsiders looking in on a bad situation should plead for compromise.
It is intricate to solve problems between major corporations such as Lonmin and strikers. The company wants to make a profit and the miners need to support their families. Clearly striking is not working in this situation. In order to stop the violence, the miners could have peaceful sit-down strikes and refuse to work. This will cripple the company and force them to comply with the miners’ demands. Although it is challenging to rectify this dispute, one thing as outsiders we could do is write to Lonmin and request they attempt a civil, non-violent compromise with the miners. We could also write to the South African president and plead for non-violent tactics to be used in crowd control. Finally, we could write to the miners’ union and ask that they refrain from violence and instead move towards a peaceful protest and eventually a solution. Although striking is an important part of our global industries, there are always peaceful ways to do it because as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it best, “The real lasting victories are those of peace.”