We fear for our lives, miners claim

2012-09-14 22:15
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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Rustenburg - Striking mineworkers went underground on Friday evening as government warned it would no longer tolerate their illegal gatherings.

"We are fearing for our lives, we are somewhere in a secretive place. Cops are looking for us," said Gaddaffi Ndoda, a leader of the Anglo American Platinum's striking workers, talking to Sapa by phone.

Ndoda said workers would not back down as the fight for better wages was not yet over.

"We will be marching to the police station to demand the release of our arrested colleagues. They [police] can't just do as they please," he said.

Seven people were arrested on Friday after police fired stun grenades at a group of protesters outside Aquarius Platinum in Rustenburg in the North West, which became the fourth mine to suspend operations as a result of labour unrest.

"They were arrested in terms of illegal gatherings," said North West police spokesperson Brigadier Thulani Ngubane.

"We are not going to tolerate it. Ours is to make sure we maintain law and order and that is what we are going to do," he said.

He clarified earlier reports that tear gas was fired at protesters at Aquarius mine, saying police had used stun grenades.

These made a loud bang and let off big puffs of white smoke but did not contain tear gas.

Polie Nyalas kept patrolling the area after the workers dispersed.

The group had been told to disperse before the stun grenades were fired.

Earlier on Friday, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said at a press conference broadcast live: "Our government will not tolerate these acts any further." He announced measures to be put in place to ensure the situation was brought under control.

These included that "illegal gatherings, the carrying of dangerous weapons, and incitement, as well as threats of violence against anyone in the affected areas, will be dealt with accordingly".

Earlier, Aquarius Platinum said it had suspended its mining operations at Kroondal Platinum Mine.

"The decision to suspend mining operations has been taken to ensure the safety and security of employees and assets given the rising tensions and protests within the regional workforce and communities."

This was after a group of protesters had marched from Anglo American Platinum's Blesbok stadium to Aquarius Platinum and demanded that it be closed.

They gave the company 15 minutes to respond.

"We are just here to ask for the closure of operation. If you don't close, no worker will come here," said another leader, only known as Godfrey, talking to the manager outside the mine.

"We will be camping there [pointing to the entry point used by workers to get inside the mine]."

Shortly after goverment issued the warning, police dispersed the striking mineworkers at Aquarius.

Police were seen chasing after the protesters. A police helicopter cornered one of the protesters, who was also being chased by policemen on the ground, and then arrested him.

Protesters ran off and a few minutes later the area was quiet, with no workers to be seen.

Anglo Platinum in Rustenburg, Lonmin Platium and Gold Fields' KDC mine in Carletonville have all suspended operations due to the labour unrest.

At Lonmin Platinum mine in Marikana, Rustenburg protesters started dispersing around 18:30 on Friday.

Forty five people have died in events associated with the Lonmin strike - 34 in a clash with police.

Read more on:    amplats  |  aquarius  |  lonmin  |  gold fields  |  mahikeng  |  johannesburg  |  lonmin unrest  |  politics  |  labour  |  mining  |  mining unrest

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