A policeman gestures in front of some of the dead miners after they were shot outside a South African mine in Rustenburg.

The killing of 34 striking Marikana platinum miners by police in August did not only send shockwaves around the globe but also evoked memories of the brutal treatment of protesters by police in the apartheid era.

The official death toll from the tragedy, which is now being probed by the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, set up by President Jacob Zuma, is 44.

The bloodiest shooting of protesters by police since the end of apartheid took place a few days after journalists had stumbled across the bloodied body of a man believed to have been a 10th victim of violence in the Lonmin mining area in North West.

About 3 000 striking workers had been occupying a stony hill near Nkaneng informal settlement since their industrial action against Lonmin mine began, refusing to give up on their demand for a R12 500 wage increase and return to work.

And since they downed tools, 10 people, including two police officers, were killed.

But on August 16, an attack by police on the striking miners turned the protest into a killing zone as it has now been revealed that at least 900 bullets, 400 of which were live rounds, were fired on that fateful day.

Marikana has now been mentioned in the same breath as Sharpeville, scene of the 1960s township massacre that left more than 60 dead. Video images of the Marikana shooting were beamed around the world. – Thabiso Thakali