Grieving South Africans have started burying the 44 victims of the Lonmin platinum mine killings.


Three funerals were held on Saturday, one of them in the mining town of Marikana.

Hundreds of residents and workers attended the funeral of Papi Ledingoane, 24, at a cemetery in Marikana, according to local radio 702.

He was one of the 34 shot dead when police opened fire on hundreds of workers staging a pay protest on August 16 at Lonmin, the world’s third largest producer of platinum.

Another 10 – two of them policemen – died in clashes between rival unions in the week before the nation’s deadliest police action since the apartheid years.

Wearing white T-shirts, some of Ledingoane’s workmates acted as pall bearers at the sombre funeral where grief-stricken relatives wept and some fainted.

Senior government officials including Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and the minister in President Jacob Zuma’s office, Collins Chabane, joined the mourners.

Two other miners were buried in the Eastern Cape province, home to the majority of the victims, in the first of a series of funerals over the next few weeks.

About 3000 rock drill operators at the Lonmin mine launched the illegal strike on August 10. It quickly degenerated into clashes with non-strikers.

In chilling scenes that evoked memories of apartheid brutality, police insist that they used tear gas first and only opened fire after miners shot at them. The miners say they were armed only with spears, machetes and clubs.

Meanwhile platinum giant Lonmin reported that nearly 60 per cent of workers reported for duty on Saturday at one of its two sets of shafts at Marikana as it sought an accord to end the labour dispute.

“Eastern Shafts are working this weekend and we have 57 per cent attendance across these shafts. The rest of the mine is closed as this is their off-weekend,” Lonmin said in a statement.

Lonmin said it would spend the weekend trying to persuade the remaining workers to return.

“It’s quite good news that 57 per cent of the workers in this section pitched up,” spokeswoman Sue Vey told AFP.

On Friday, Lonmin reported only about 24 per cent of its 28,000 work force at Marikana had signed in.

It said talks were ongoing to find a “common ground among all stakeholders”.

“We continue to communicate with our employees to reassure them that we are all working together to bring resolution and we encourage them to come back to work,” it added.

Workers are demanding a wage increase to 12,500 rand (about $A1441), claiming they currently earn only 4000 rand.

But according to figures released by Lonmin on Friday, when bonuses and other allowances are included, the rock drill operators who launched the strike earn an average of 9813 rand before taxes.

On Friday, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant met with union representatives in Rustenburg, the main city in the platinum belt in the north of the country.