South Africa: Police Officer Shoot Wounded Miner

Marikana mine strikers (15 August 2012)A South African police officer has accused a colleague of killing a wounded miner during strikes at the Marikana mine last year.

Hendrick Myburgh told an inquiry he heard a gunshot and saw a fellow officer standing over the body of a miner who had been alive moments earlier.

Thirty-four striking Marikana miners died when police opened fire at them.

The police say they were acting in self-defense.

Eyewitnesses have previously accused officers of shooting injured or even handcuffed miners, but it is the first time a police officer has made the allegation, correspondents say.

The bloodshed occurred on 16 August, after the weeklong strike had already killed 10 people, including two police officers who were hacked to death.

It is one of the deadliest police operations since the end of apartheid in 1994, and led to widespread outrage in South Africa.

Judges have opened an inquiry into all 44 of the deaths.

‘Deserve to die’

Mr Myburgh was part of the police force called to the Lonmin-owned Marikana platinum mine on 16 August.

In a written statement, Mr Myburgh said he heard a gunshot and turned around to see another officer putting his pistol back in the holster as he stood over the body of a miner.

The miner had been injured but alive moments earlier.

The unnamed officer then allegedly told Mr Myburgh: “They deserve to die.”

Mr Myburgh said he could not identify his colleague, the BBC‘s Andrew Harding reports.

South Africa’s police commissioner Riyah Phiyega told the inquiry that made it hard to pursue the matter.

In the immediate aftermath, authorities sought to portray the miners, who were striking illegally, as responsible for the violence and bloodshed.

Some 270 of the striking miners were arrested and charged with murder, though the charges were later dropped.

The strike ended in September after workers agreed a 22% pay rise with the mine’s owners, platinum giant Lonmin.

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