Channel NewsAsia

South African protesters halt probe into Marikana killings

Heckling protesters on Monday (Aug 11) disrupted an inquiry into the shooting dead of 34 striking miners by South African police, forcing the country's deputy president to briefly halt his testimony.

PRETORIA: Heckling protesters on Monday (Aug 11) disrupted an inquiry into the shooting dead of 34 striking miners by South African police, forcing the country's deputy president to briefly halt his testimony.

Demonstrators chanted "Blood on his hands!" as Cyril Ramaphosa gave evidence about his role in the events leading up to the deadly events of August 16, 2012 at Marikana. The killings at the Lonmin platinum mine north of Johannesburg came after days of escalating violence, and have widely been compared to apartheid-era atrocities.

Ramaphosa became deputy president after general elections in May this year, but at the time of the shootings he was a non-executive director of the London-listed mining company. He became involved in the labour dispute after a senior Lonmin official urged him to use his "influence" to petition officials who had the "necessary resources at their disposal."

"I felt duty bound to try and help and try see the extent to which one could communicate with those in authority ... to try and get the situation not to escalate into further violence and loss of life," he told the inquiry.

Ramaphosa, who has been tipped to become South Africa's next president, has previously been criticised for a leaked email in which he appeared to urge a tough response against the miners through "concomitant action."

The deputy president admitted he spoke to the ministers for mining and police to urge action, but denied encouraging a violent crackdown. "I did not at any time seek to prescribe the type of action they should take except what I understand to be their duties," he told the inquiry.

Police shot the strikers following a week of inter-union skirmishes that had left 10 others dead, including two policemen and two mine security guards.

On Monday, protesters shouted "Ramaphosa must resign!", forcing retired appeals court judge Ian Farlam, who is leading the inquiry, to briefly halt the proceedings. "This is serious misconduct which cannot be tolerated in a civilised society," said Farlam, threatening to throw the protesters out of the room if they continued to disrupt proceedings.

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia