KZN miners shot dead

2012-11-01 00:00

ANOTHER mine strike turned tragic yesterday when two workers from the Magdalena and Aviemore coal mines in Dannhauser near Dundee were shot dead, allegedly by security guards.

The victims, Alfred Mzikayifani Mdiyako (58) and Sanele Mthethwa (39) were among the 100 miners who had been on strike since October 17 demanding that their wages be increased from R3 800 to R7 000 a month. The mines are owned by the Canadian-based Forbes and Manhattan Coal Corp.

According to Mdiyako’s son, Sphamandla Mncube, who also works at the mine and was part of the strike, the workers were fleeing when they were shot at by guards from Mbube Security yesterday morning.

Mbube Security is a private security firm contracted by the mines.

National Union of Mineworkers’ (NUM) regional secretary Bongani Manyoni said one worker died on the way to hospital, and the other died at the hospital a few hours later. Manyoni said the union was puzzled by the turn of events as the strike has been peaceful for three weeks. “We’ve been on a peaceful strike for three weeks, with no violence at all,” said Manyoni.

Mncube said early in the day, while they were picketing outside the mine gate, police came and told them to move and they complied.

“We were nowhere near the mine when this happened. As we sang songs we were requested by the police to move away from the mine gate.

“We went and gathered near a donga away from the gate where we continued singing.

“ We saw one of the mine managers loading Mbube security guards in the back of his van at the mine gate and drove towards us. As the security guards jumped off the van they charged at us firing shots,”said Mncube.

He said he and other strikers ran towards a nearby settlement and he saw his father running into a nearby shack. “Two security guards followed and dragged him out. He broke away and ran, and one of them shot him.

“It’s sad because he was not fighting them, but they decided to kill him,” he said.

An eye witness, who lives at the settlement when the fleeing strikers took refuge, Sanele Ziqubu, said he was shocked when he saw the security guards shooting at the running protesters.

“How does the mine management explain this unnecessary killing? What reason do they have to kill people who are protesting for better wages,” said Ziqubu.

Police yesterday said they would be investigating two counts of murder.

Police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker said police went to the scene and had “seized firearms from all the security guards that were on duty to establish who the shooters were”.

Mbube Security director Stuart Cummings refused to comment saying, Forbes would speak on the matter.

The mine refused to respond to questions by The Witness, saying only that the would release a statement.

In a statement posted on the company website, Forbes and Manhattan Coal Corp President and CEO Stephan Theron said they have decided to suspend all operations at the mine “until such time as deemed safe and appropriate by management and the board”.

“Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with the family of the deceased employees.

“This company is committed to the process of responsible discussions to resolve the situation,” said Theron.

Manyoni said: “The employer offered us an 8,5% increase, which is nothing compared to what we have demanded.” He said the union would be heading to Dundee to ensure that the strike continued in a peaceful manner.

Mthethwa’s twin brother, Nkosenye, said his family was shocked at the “unnecessary killings.”

“My brother had three children and I have my own child. We both supported our grandmother.

“Worst of all they were killed near their homes. They were running away, not charging towards the security guards. The mine bosses and the security company must answer for what they have done,” said Nkosenye.

NUM has demanded a complete shut down of the mine until the strike is resolved.

FOR THE RECORD

) into the print edition.

We misspelled Dannhauser in this story.

We apologise to readers for this unacceptable level of carelessness. Steps have been taken to address this. This online version of the story has been edited to reflect the correction.

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