June 25, 2015 / 12:15 PM / 3 years ago

South African probe blames Lonmin, police, unions for 'Marikana massacre': Zuma

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - An inquiry into South Africa’s worst police killing since the end of apartheid blamed a mining company, police and unions for the “horrendous tragedy”, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.

A policeman (R) fires at protesting miners outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, August 16, 2012. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

The 2012 “Marikana massacre”, where 34 miners were gunned down, shocked the world. The police, mining companies, unions, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and Zuma all came under intense public and media criticism.

Releasing the findings of the nearly three-year inquiry by retired judge Ian Farlam, Zuma also said the commission found that allegations that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa had used his influence to trigger the police action were “groundless”.

“The Marikana incident was a horrendous tragedy that has no place in a democracy,” Zuma said in a televised address.

The report found that Lonmin, the world’s fourth-largest platinum producer by value, “did not use its best endeavors” to resolve a wage dispute with workers. It also found that the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) lost control of its members.

“They sang provocative songs and made inflammatory remarks which tended to aggravate an already volatile situation,” Zuma said.

He slammed the National Union of Mineworkers, a key ally of his ANC, saying they did not persuade Lonmin to speak to workers and failed to ensure that their members acted lawfully.

Zuma said the commission found a police plan to disarm miners was defective and the operation should not have taken place.

“It would have been impossible to disarm and disperse the strikers without significant bloodshed,” he said.

The commission recommended that a panel of experts be established to revise public-order policing policies and investigate “the world’s best practices” for crowd control “without resorting to the use of weapons capable of automatic fire”.

It has also called for a criminal investigation into all police officers involved in the incident and for an inquiry into police chief Riah Phiyega’s ability to hold office.

A lawyer for Muzi Msimang, acting for injured and arrested miners, said they are exploring instituting civil claims.

Additional reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by James Macharia, Larry King

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