Johannesburg - Political parties called for an urgent investigation into the shootings at the Lonmin [JSE:LON] mine in Marikana in the North West on Thursday.
African National Congress spokesperson 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 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 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 Inkatha Freedom Party said the massacre 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 for 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.
Cosatu claimed that the violence was being orchestrated.
"Broadly we believe there is an orchestration, a planned violence, because the violence that people are seeing today has been going on since January," said general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.
"Scores of people have been killed and systematically targeted. Someone is behind it. We can't put our finger on it, but someone is orchestrating that violence."
Vavi said Cosatu was extremely concerned about the loss of so many lives.
The trade union federation hoped the matter would be resolved through the intervention of the leadership of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).
"We are aware NUM has been trying to convince workers to stop violence and intimidation," he 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 the past week.
After a call for the miners to disarm themselves, the group - singing and hitting their spears against pangas - starting moving down the hill to a nearby informal settlement.
The police tried to intercept them using water cannons, tear gas and stun grenades.
The workers started running in different directions, some heading for the open veld and others toward the informal settlement.
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 hit.
Those who already died in violent protests at the mine included two security guards and two police officers.
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