Marikana, North West - A delegation from the SA Council of Churches (SACC) visited workers and management at Lonmin's troubled Marikana mine on Friday, after a deadly clash between police and protesters.
SACC general secretary Mautji Pataki said in a statement that he and the organisation's president Bishop Jo Seoka led the delegation on a pastoral and fact-finding mission.
“The impression we gained is that both parties are willing to engage one another, provided the level of hostility is reduced to allow peaceful interaction and resolution.”
Thirty-four people died when the police opened fire on striking miners on Thursday. Another 10 people had already been killed in violence at the mine since the start of an illegal strike last Friday.
Pataki said the SACC would seek to help to create an atmosphere conducive to negotiation.
“We call upon the police to exercise restraint in the use of force as they seek to maintain law and order...
“The SACC maintains that it is only through meaningful and peaceful dialogue that all parties affected by this conflict can find a solution.”
Police moved in on protesters encamped on a hill near the mine after days of negotiations.
The protests were believed to be linked to rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) over recognition agreements at the mine. Workers also wanted higher wages.
Earlier, the Muslim Network called on Muslims to dedicate their next two days of fasting and prayers “for peace and reconciliation on this day of national tragedy and mourning”, it said in a statement.
This time should also honour the memories of the slain mineworkers.
“We pass on our condolences and sympathy to their families, friends and colleagues.”
Dutch Reformed Church general secretary JJ Gerber expressed the church's distress, sadness and disapproval at the deadly shootout.
“In the name of Lord Jesus who came down to earth so that there could be peace and justice, we plead with unions, workers, mine management, the SAPS and the government to follow the example of Jesus to look for a solution.”
He appealed to South Africans of other denominations to join its members in “the battle for the soul of this nation”.
Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba called for “strong, but measured and proportionate” response to the shooting from the government, unions and police, his office said.
“Further, the whole country must register our utter frustration at the unacceptable handling of the dispute...
“Yet, we cannot just pray for wounds to be bandaged and pain healed, and demand that conflict ends, without addressing the wider context and the underlying issues on which conflict feeds,” Makgoba said. - Sapa