More than 20 people arrested in Rustenburg

By Drum Digital
19 September 2012

Police arrested 22 people near Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) in Rustenburg on Wednesday after using rubber bullets and teargas to disperse a gathering, said a spokesman.

"Twenty-two people were arrested for illegal gathering, with four of them arrested for being in possession of dangerous weapons," said Captain Dennis Adriao.

"One person was taken to hospital who complained about shortness of breath."

Adriao said medics attended to the man and he was taken to hospital for a check-up.

The arrests took place between 9.30am and 10am on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, Adriao gave the number of arrested as 19, but said he had received updated information.

"Yesterday [Tuesday] we also arrested 42 people next to Jabula hospital on Amplats property for public violence and damage to a bus," he said.

Police were maintaining a high visibility and presence on the ground, although the area was quiet on Wednesday afternoon.

Amplats spokeswoman Mphumi Sithole said she had been unaware of police action beyond Wednesday morning.

"Operations have resumed as we have announced. However, many mining employees are still to return to work. We are unable to confirm the turnout numbers at this point."

Sithole said the company could not confirm whether those arrested on Wednesday morning were Amplats employees.

Small groups of people stood under umbrellas in the area after the police action.

They said police left with a "truck-load" of men.

They said they were attending a meeting when the police "just came" and they were shot at with rubber bullets.

They ran into the informal settlement and rubber bullets were fired at them from a helicopter.

At the company's Jabula shaft, about 10 police vehicles and a water cannon were parked.

At Sondela settlement, worker Pula Thebe said workers had been meeting to discuss the way forward after receiving a text message that they were expected back at work on Wednesday.

Thebe said some workers were worried about what would happen to their houses while they were on night-shift if went back to work.

Last week, members of Cabinet's security cluster said government would no longer tolerate violence, threats, and intimidation in the mining sector, as massive strikes sprang up along Rustenburg's platinum belt, with another one near Carletonville.

The measures included a crackdown on illegal gatherings, carrying dangerous weapons, incitement, and threats of violence against anyone in the affected areas.

After suspending operations last week, citing employee safety due to the situation in the region, Amplats resumed operations on Tuesday.

It continued paying workers during the suspension period.

On Friday, during the operational suspension, miners marched to the company's Bleskop stadium, and decided they also wanted a salary increase.

Unlike their mining colleagues at other operations, who were seeking R12,500, they said they wanted R16,070 and other modifications to their fringe benefits.

Sithole said earlier Amplats was making every effort to reassure employees that it was safe to return to work.

It wanted everyone back by Wednesday, and beyond that would have to "initiate appropriate employee relations procedures" for those who had not returned.

The company's operations were already under pressure and further delays would increase the risk to the long-term viability of the mines.

Explaining the reason for the police action, Adriao said for large groups of people to gather, in terms of the Regulation of Gatherings Act, they had to give notice to the local municipality for the gathering to take place.

Section four set out certain conditions for the gathering.

"Police need to be present, emergency services need to be on standby, marshals present the whole day. Water points need to be established," he said.

The relevant municipality in this case was Rustenburg.

On Tuesday night, a lengthy strike at nearby Lonmin ended with a wage agreement.

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