Beyond Marikana: the crisis – Marikana erupts again

2012-09-15 16:52

Anger brews in the streets of Nkaneng as residents accuse police of brutality

Running battles erupted in the streets of Nkaneng, Marikana, early yesterday after police opened fire on a group of mine workers gathered on the outskirts of the informal settlement.

At 5am yesterday, policemen armed with rubber bullet guns and rifles raided the Karee mine hostel to search for weapons.

Police confiscated an assortment of weapons, including pangas, spears, pick handles and knives.

A few hours later, police arrived in armoured vehicles at the scene where the miners had gathered and ordered them to hand over their remaining weapons.

The miners handed over their sticks and spears to police officers.

But shortly afterwards, police opened fire and the startled men fled into the settlement, taking cover behind shacks as police pursued them.

This sparked a flurry of sporadic battles in the informal settlement that went on for most of the morning.

There was a lull in the battles early in the afternoon after the appearance of a military helicopter that hovered above the settlement for almost half an hour before disappearing.

However, there was anger in the streets of Nkaneng as a result of what some residents described as police brutality.

Women cursed the police as they pursued fleeing miners into shacks, breaking down doors and shooting tear gas, which affected young children hiding in their homes.

City Press saw a man being assaulted by a police officer when he tried to flee from rubber bullet gunfire.

Children were seen peeping from the doors of their homes, trying to see what was going on.

The man, a Lonmin employee, said: “I was assaulted by police. They kicked me.”

He was clearly in pain and told City Press he had been shot by police.

His colleagues whisked the man away after police left him near a spaza shop.

In one, incident police raided a house where they found a terrified toddler with his parents and ordered his father to hand in his weapons.

The man denied he had dangerous weapons, but when police moved in to search under his bed, they found about five spears.

However, he was not arrested and when his wife tried to speak to the police, she was told they did not speak to women.

In another shack, police found a topless woman who told them there were no men in her property.

Police insisted that she put on a shirt and went in to search her house.

They then moved on, kicking in the woman’s neighbour’s door.

Seven people were arrested for various offences, including possession of dagga.

Ward councillor Nelson Mpongwana described the police action as arrogant.

Nkaneng residents ordered Mpongwana to summon Bojanala District Municipality mayor Louis Diremelo.

“We must invite political parties to visit Nkaneng to see us being killed,” one resident told Mpongwana.

Another angry Lonmin employee asked: “Ukhona umntu ongaphinde avotele iANC (Is there anyone who will vote for the ANC again?).”

Local shops closed and residents could not buy essentials throughout Saturday morning.

“Silambile asikwazi nokuya evenkileni (We’re hungry, we can’t even go to the shop),” shouted a mother with her kids in a shack.

Other women joined the workers in the streets, singing and throwing stones at police inyalas.

The police crackdown follows Justice Minister Jeff Radebe’s announcement that government would crack down on illegal gatherings, the carrying of dangerous weapons and incitement at the country’s mines.

Many of the workers said they were not intimidated by the police and the army’s presence, and would not drop their demand for a R12 500 minimum wage.

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