Miners run amok near Implats

2012-02-16 14:31

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Johannesburg - A bottle store was looted and two other shops were targeted in violence associated with the firing of over 17 000 mineworkers at Impala Platinum's Rustenburg operations on Thursday, North West police said.

"People are running amok. We are taking other members there [for] reinforcement," said spokesperson Brigadier Thulani Ngubane.

Ten people had been arrested.

On Wednesday night, a man died in an ambulance after being found severely beaten and stripped naked near the mine.

A policewoman and several civilians have also been injured in the clashes

On Thursday morning, police were out in force, drawn from units around the province to control the situation, Ngubane said.

About 5 000 people, believed to be part of a group fired for going on an illegal strike, were "running up and down the streets outside the mine".

Rubber bullets not allowed


They had set fire to the disused Freedom Park satellite police station.

Ngubane urged the union and the mine to defuse the situation as it was taking police away from other areas in the province and those communities were being deprived of police services.

Comment was not immediately available from the mine as it was presenting its results for the half year ending December 2011.

In an earlier statement, it said that it had lost 60 000 ounces of platinum since the start of the strike almost a month ago.

Ngubane said no rubber bullets had been fired at the mine following a directive from the police ministry last year that this was no longer allowed in crowd control.

This was because of the high number of serious injuries to protesters and at least one death.

Ngubane said the workers appeared to be focusing on getting to shafts one, two and A2 to shut down the mine.

The injured policewoman, who was hit on the head, was treated for a minor injury. An unconfirmed number of people were taken to hospital on Wednesday night for treatment.

Miners prevented from working also fired

The mineworkers were fired in January after a dispute and an illegal strike, which started on January 12 over a retention bonus. Earlier, it was reported that the bonus was paid to rock drillers, in an effort to reduce high staff turnover.

Lesiba Seshoka, spokesperson for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), however, explained that it was paid to other miners, and not the about 5 000 rock drillers.

"The rock [drillers] went on an illegal strike protesting against them not receiving the bonus," said Seshoka.

The company obtained an interdict for them to return to their vital rockface drilling work, but they ignored it, and so they were fired.

He said the company had made the mistake of allowing the fired mineworkers to remain on the premises, and that they had prevented the others from working.

Because they were not working, they were also fired. The company then said it would start rehiring miners, making it clear it would not reinstate them as the strike had been illegal.

The difference was that they had to renegotiate their terms of employment and lose benefits such as higher pay for longer service. They saw it as the company taking advantage of the situation to restructure.

In the meantime, the NUM wanted to meet the company to find ways of resolving the situation. It vowed to take strong action against NUM members responsible for violence.
- SAPA

Read more on:    num  |  impala platinum  |  mahikeng  |  mining
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