S Africa declares week of mourning after mine shooting tragedy

South African President Jacob Zuma declared a week-long national mourning after 44 people died during a labour unrest.

Updated: Aug 20, 2012, 15:26 PM IST

Johannesburg: South African President Jacob Zuma has declared a week of national mourning from Monday following the death of 44 striking miners at the Lonmin platinum mine in North West Province last week.

Zuma earlier announced a judicial commission of inquiry into the incident in which 36 of the dead were shot by police, allegedly in self-defence.

The Presidency emphasised that the week of mourning was in remembrance of all South Africans who have died violently, as outraged South Africans across all divides condemned the action and compared it to apartheid era incidents in which policemen killed unarmed civilian protestors in large numbers.

Zuma`s office specifically pointed out that the two policemen killed in the mine strike incident, as well as eight members of the community-based anti-stock theft group called Isikebhe, who were ambushed and killed in Pomeroy near Msinga in KwaZulu-Natal province, were part of the national mourning period.

Flags will fly at half-mast at all flag stations in South Africa and missions outside the country during the period of mourning.

Zuma has also declared August 23 as the official day for memorial services to be held across the country to mourn and promote a violence-free society.

"The nation is in shock and in pain. We must this week reflect on the sanctity of human life and the right to life as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic. We must avoid finger-pointing and recrimination. We must unite against violence from whatever quarter. We must reaffirm our belief in peace, stability and order and in building a caring society free of crime and violence," the President said.