South Africa’s press has been scathing as the country reels from one of the bloodiest security operations since apartheid.
Headlines screamed ‘Bloodbath’, ‘Killing Field’ and ‘Mine Slaughter’.
However police insist it was self-defence when they fired on striking platinum miners. More than 30 people were killed.
“They were met by members from the police who tried to riposte the advance with water cannons, tear gas as well as stun grenades,” police chief Riah Phiyega told a news conference.
“The police members had to employ force to protect themselves from the charging group.”
On the streets of Johannesburg, many are unconvinced. Amid the shock and anger, for some it is a painful reminder of the past.
“I think the police over-reacted, over-reacted a lot because what they did was so unfair because they should have taken along their tear gas and rubber bullets only and not used bullets to kill miners there,” said university mining student Ofentse Dlamini.
“I still think the situation could have been contained, but I mean what happened, happened. I guess it takes us back to those years. It reminded everybody of the years that happened in the past,” said resident Kopanang Mabaso.
Crime scene investigators have been combing the scene of the shooting at the Marikana mine, owned by major platinum producer Lonmin, 100 km northwest of Johannesburg.
Police confirmed 34 dead and 78 injured after officers moved in against 3,000 striking miners armed with machetes and sticks
Prior to Thursday, 10 people, two of them policemen, had been killed in several days of conflict between rival unions at the mine where workers have been demanding a pay rise.