Striking miners take a breather, disperse

2012-02-18 14:25
Johannesburg - Most of the workers striking at the Impala Platinum mine in Rustenburg have dispersed for the weekend, North West police said on Saturday.

"There is nothing new at the mine. I think the workers have probably all gone home for the weekend, " said Brigadier Thulani Ngubane.

"Let's see on Monday, the strike will continue and they will all be back."

He said police maintained a heavy presence around Rustenburg to keep watch through the weekend.

Six workers were arrested on Friday after they allegedly looted a bottle store near the mine.

Ngubane said about 3 000 workers gathered at the mine on Friday morning and had intended to march to the home of the king of the Royal Bafokeng nation, Kgosi Leruo Molotlegi, to hand over a memorandum.

However, their plans were thwarted by police because they did not have permission to march.

On Thursday, the situation at the mine was hostile and tense, and more than 100 mineworkers were arrested after violent protests.

Ngubane said 500 police officers had secured the mine and succeeded in containing the violence.

The National Union of Mineworkers and management met on Friday to try and broker a deal to end the strike.

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.

Ngubane said police were not allowed to use rubber bullets to control the crowd following a directive from the police ministry last year.

This was because of concern over the high number of injuries and at least one death associated with the use of rubber bullets for crowd control.

The mineworkers were fired after a dispute over a retention bonus and an illegal strike.

The first to be dismissed were about 5 000 rock drillers, after they refused to accept they would not get the bonus and went on an illegal strike.

The rest of the over 17 000 workers were later fired for not being at work.

Impala said it had lost production of 60 000 troy ounces (1 866kg) since the start of the strike almost a month ago.

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