Source: Lydia Polgreen / The New York Times
MARIKANA, South Africa — South African police fired on machete-wielding workers engaged in a wildcat strike at a platinum mine here Thursday, leaving a field strewn with bodies and a deepening fault line between the governing African National Congress and a nation that, 18 years after the end of apartheid, is increasingly impatient with deep poverty, rampant unemployment and yawning inequality.
In a scene replayed endlessly on television that reminded some South Africans of the days when the police of the apartheid government opened fire on protesters, heavily armed officers shot into a charging crowd of workers who walked off the job last Friday, demanding higher wages.
The strike has pit the country’s largest mine workers union, which is closely allied with the governing A.N.C., against a radical upstart union demanding sharp increases in pay and faster action to improve the grim living and working standards for miners.
The strike and the government’s iron-fisted response are emblematic of the frustration with the slow pace of transforming South Africa’s largely white-owned business establishment and the growing perception that the A.N.C. and its allies have become too cozy with big business. As a result, many people here, especially the young, have looked for more radical solutions.
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