100s held over Rustenburg violence
Johannesburg - Between 350 and 400 people have been arrested in connection with an illegal mineworkers' strike which turned violent in Rustenburg last week, police said on Sunday.
Brigadier Thulani Ngubane said they had been charged with malicious damage to property, theft, illegal gatherings, public violence, and possession of stolen goods.
Local businesses belonging to foreigners in Freedom Park were looted on Thursday and Friday, with around 38 shops affected, said Ngubane.
He denied that the attacks were xenophobic, and said the violence had been targeted at businesses, rather than the foreigners who have a monopoly on shops in the area.
Up to 100 people, mainly Somali and Ethiopian, had been displaced as a result of the violence, and were staying with friends in a neighbouring township, he said.
The township was quiet over the weekend, as miners went home, but Monday could see a resumption of violence, said Ngubane.
"The people responsible must put an end to this. That is all we are asking for," he said.
On Saturday, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) urged strikers to return to work.
"The NUM is committed to a peaceful resolution at Implats [Impala Platinum] and appeals to all its members and workers in general to return to the operations next week when their issues are being addressed," spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said.
The protests began in Phokeng on Thursday, with mineworkers apparently intimidating and assaulting people trying to get to and from work in the township outside Rustenburg.
They barricaded roads heading towards Freedom Park and threw stones at cars and looted shops. The crowd also torched a satellite police station in Freedom park.
Seshoka said the union met with Implats management on Friday night in an attempt to resolve the impasse in Rustenburg.
Implats has already agreed to re-employ 17 200 workers who were dismissed for striking illegally.
The NUM and Implats have yet to discuss the disparities in the bonuses given to miners, excluding the rockdrill operators, and issues of re-instatement.
The union said that if Implats failed to meet its commitments when all workers returned to work, it would call a general strike at the company's operations.
The NUM appealed to its members to disregard advice from anti-revolutionary forces in and around Rustenburg, Seshoka said.
"The NUM strongly condemns the violent behaviour demonstrated by criminal elements taking advantage of the volatile situation and appeals for calm as well as to the law enforcement agencies to make decisive intervention whenever violence raises its ugly head," he said.