Political parties called for an urgent investigation into the shootings at the Lonmin mine in Marikana in the North West on Thursday.
African National Congress spokesman Jackson Mthembu said it needed to be determined who had caused the confrontation between police and striking miners.
Mthembu said the ANC was shocked about what happened.
“All of us feel very saddened by the violence we have seen on television,” he said.
“We are requesting that our government hold an inquiry on what happened today [Thursday] so that all of us South Africans can come to a conclusion on who is responsible.”
A shoot-out between police and strikers at the mine left at least 18 people dead or wounded on Thursday.
Mthembu said: “These illegal strikers have been violent since day one.
“However, we are not here to blame any party in this confrontation because we don't have any information.”
The ANC agreed that workers should fight for their rights but not at the expense of people's lives.
“We deplore the killing and murders of police and miners.”
Mthembu said the mine's management and the unions, which operated on the mine, had to resolve the matter as soon as possible.
“We are appealing to both sides... so that we don't have a repeat of what happened today. These issues cannot be resolved by the police,” he said.
The ANC in the North West expressed shock and disbelief at what had happened.
“It is regrettable that valuable lives of the miners, police and security guards have been adversely exposed and lost,” provincial spokesman Kenny Morolong said in a statement.
“We call on the community around Marikana, the mineworkers as well as the police to find a speedy and lasting solution to these senseless killings.”
The Democratic Alliance said it was shocked and appalled by what had happened at Lonmin.
“We call on union leaders, the police and everyone else involved to immediately work towards a de-escalation of the conflict,” the party said in a statement.
“All action must be taken to avoid further bloodshed.”
The DA said an urgent independent investigation was required to determine what happened and who was responsible.
“The families of everyone involved, and indeed the nation, deserve to know how and why this bloodshed occurred,” it said.
The shooting erupted when police sought to disperse armed, striking workers who had gathered on a hill in the area that had already seen 10 deaths in violent protests in the past week.
A Sapa reporter on the scene said gunshots could be heard from the police, which lasted for three minutes.
Police on the scene said workers shot at them first before they opened fire.
An uneasy calm returned to the Marikana mine area on Thursday evening as paramedics attended to those who were injured.
The Inkatha Freedom Party on Thursday said the massacre at Lonmin highlighted the brewing tensions within South African society and should not be underestimated.
“Its horror should not only shock us but bring to the fore how too often conflicts in this country are dealt with through violence,” IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini said in a statement.
“Unless there is a fundamental change of culture at the highest level of government things will worsen.”
He said leaders should no longer tolerate anyone who threatened violence because eventually tolerance of such behaviour materialised tragedies like the one at Lonmin.
“We call on the President to order a full, expedited and independent investigation of whether police action was justified, proportional and necessary under the circumstances.”
Congress of the People also called for an investigation by an independent body into what instigated the killings.
“In order for calm to return in that area proper policing packaged with genuine political and trade union solution to the problem must be found urgently,” Cope MP Leonard Ramatlakane said in a statement.
“Cope believes the magnitude of this massacre warrants a comprehensive report by the police to Parliament's portfolio committee on police.”
Ramatlakane said the “intolerable” behaviour that was noticeable from the unions involved was unacceptable.
“It is disappointing that leadership from both unions failed to resolve the impasse, leading to the loss of lives,” he said. - Sapa