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South Africa opens inquiry into Marikana mine tragedy

The Marikana inquiry will examine the roles of South African police, unions, mine management and government ministries in the shootings at the Lonmin-owned platinum mine.

south africa marikana mine inquiry 2012-10-01Enlarge
Police surround fallen miners after they opened fire during clashes at the Lonmin Marikana platinum mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, on August 16, 2012, killing 34 people. The South African government on October 1, 2012, opened a judicial commission of inquiry into the shooting. (-/AFP/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — A judicial commission of inquiry into the killings at the Marikana platinum mine opened Monday.

The inquiry was established by President Jacob Zuma after the August 16 shootings of 34 people by police, an incident that caused widespread public anger in South Africa.

The Marikana inquiry has been tasked with determining the roles played by police, unions, the mine's management and government ministries in the tragedy.

A total of 46 people were killed in weeks of violent protests at the Lonmin-owned mine, including 10 deaths in the week leading up to the police mass shooting, and two later deaths that fall outside the scope of the inquiry.

The commission, consisting of a three-member panel led by retired judge Ian Farlam, is expected to complete its investigation within four months, and then must submit a final report within a month.

More from GlobalPost: Marikana: South Africa's perfect storm

The police shootings at Marikana were the most deadly police action in the 18 years since apartheid ended. 

The inquiry, which is being held at the Rustenburg Civic Center near the mine site northwest of Johannesburg, began with the names of the dead being read aloud, followed by a moment of silence.

Judge Farlam said the Marikana inquiry would be conducted with speed, but must also be thorough.

"It is very important that the truth, in so far as what happened over that period, should become clear as soon as possible," he said.

The  commission of inquiry started with an inspection of the Marikana mine site, where the protests and shootings took place. Hearings will formally begin on Wednesday.

The nearly six-week wildcat strike at Marikana was finally called off after workers and management agreed to a wage deal that includes a 22-percent pay rise.

More from GlobalPost: South Africa sends in soldiers, police to quell Marikana mine strike

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/south-africa/121001/south-africa-opens-inquiry-marikana-mine-tragedy