Mining unrest: Police won't 'hesitate'

2012-09-15 16:16

Marikana – The police said on Sartuday they would not hesitate to act against "unruly behaviour" and illegal gatherings by striking miners after a morning raid on the Marika mine hostels.

"Wherever we see this unruly behaviour and people taking the law into their hands by embarking on unprotected gatherings and illegal gatherings, we are definitely going to act," police spokesperson Thulani Ngubane said.

"The police are not going to hesitate to act. We are going to act as we have started acting and we are going to continue doing that."

Earlier on Saturday, police fired rubber bullets, raided worker hostels and seized traditional weapons at platinum giant Lonmin in a crackdown on rising unrest in the key mining industry.

A military helicopter arrived as backup after security forces used rubber bullets to disperse hundreds of workers in a shantytown near where police shot dead 34 people last month at the London-listed company's Marikana mine.

The raids are the first use of force by police since the bloodshed on 16 August, which shocked the world with its echoes of apartheid brutality. Officers had since been monitoring a spike in protests in the country's platinum belt from afar.

Hostels raided

Police moved into Marikana less than 24 hours after government announced a security clampdown on the unrest that has forced three leading platinum producers to halt mining operations on the richest deposits in the world.

Five hundred officers raided hostels at world number three producer Lonmin's mine on Saturday morning and seized piles of metal rods, spears, machetes and sticks.

Police then fired tear gas to disperse gathering protesters later in the morning, with clashes breaking out as workers regrouped and threw stones at officers amid the shacks opposite the mine.

Plumes of black smoke poured into the sky from burning tyres which workers used as barricades along with large rocks dragged across the dirt roads inside the humble settlement.

"We used rubber bullets, we used stun grenades," Ngubane confirmed.

Images of people with bloody wounds from the rubber bullets were shown on television news channel eNCA. An AFP photographer on the scene saw a man bleeding after being shot in the arm and the side of his body.

No soldiers on the ground

"A police nyala [armoured truck] drove past us, we were a group of women and others ran away. I just stood there watching and they shot me in my leg," Melita Ramasedi told the Sapa news agency, showing her bleeding leg.

The military helicopter was sent in to provide support to a police chopper, but there were no soldiers on the ground. The government on Friday said the situation was not a state of emergency.

Yet Ngubane did not rule out the military being sent in to assist police if needed.

"They are part of the state, all state resources are available to make sure that we maintain the situation of Marikana," he said.

"But at this stage there is no soldier that is anywhere on the field or that is anywhere around the operational area of Marikana."

A total of 12 people were arrested in the morning, bringing the total to 19 since the crackdown was launched Friday, but the police said more were being processed.

Mining operations halted

The wage disputes have spread to surrounding mines after starting with a wildcat strike that erupted last month at Marikana and turned violent, killing 45 people in all.

On Friday, the world's leading ferrochrome producer, Xstrata Alloys, and the fourth-largest platinum producer, Aquarius, said growing protests and tensions in the area had forced the temporary halt of operations.

The world's top platinum producer Anglo American Platinum has also closed five of its mines over safety fears after intimidation and threats of violence against staff trying to go to work.

The government clampdown is targeting the illegal gatherings, weapons, incitement and threats of violence that have characterised the unrest - with thousands of miners mobilising with spears and machetes and fiery threats of intimidation and deepened strike action.

The mining sector, the backbone of the economy, directly employs around 500 000 people and accounts for nearly one-fifth of gross domestic product when related activities are included.

It also brings in about half of the nation's export earnings.

The labour strife has also spread to the gold sector, where 15 000 Gold Fields miners have been striking since Sunday.

  • irvin.mkhari - 2012-09-15 16:56

    they do hesitate when handle serious crimes but they do not hesitate when handle innocent people they enjoy killing their own people to protect the mines that are not even own by SA.

      lacrimosewolf - 2012-09-15 17:07

      SA owns the mines and the mineral rights. Mining companies get a license from the government, to operate the mines. Mining companies also have to pay over to local authorities an annual beneficiation tax to help develop the areas in and around the mines. No-one is asking any local authority where that money has disappeared to - year after year. It certainly has not gone to the areas it was meant to serve.

      JackTrend - 2012-09-15 17:21

      Please, why would they attack someone minding their own business? These so-called innocents have been told to lie. It's called disinformation propaganda.

      raymond.buis.3 - 2012-09-15 17:27

      @irvin . I have responded to almost all of your socialist rants . Come on engage. Or are you yo dumb to understand? You are just an angry little boy pretending to be a man. So shut up the adults are discussing serious issues. Beyond that they are not innocent not in the eyes of the law. Ass .\r\n So like I said

  • irvin.mkhari - 2012-09-15 17:00

    They do hesitate when handle serious crimes but they do not hesistate when handle innocent people to protect mines that are not even own by SA,they enjoy killing their own people.

      Phumlani Madlala - 2012-09-16 05:28

      What does the word innocent mean?Go to Marikana with a weapon and cause harvoc and see what s gonna happen to you innocent man,we cannot allow this people to do as they wish.with their commander in chief Malema,i am told that u cannot debate with him for obvious reason,to shut him up give him a wood work

  • Mjak8s - 2012-09-15 17:09

    Police should do their work without fear. If people would go to a strike carrying weapons, which obviously they won't hesitate to use then they should be disarmed more so if it's an illegal strike. It's pathetic

  • ron.lawrance - 2012-09-15 17:21

    "workers regrouped and threw stones at officers amid the shacks opposite the mine." What workers??? If they where workers they would be working!!! They where protesters.

  • johan.jacobs.5680 - 2012-09-15 17:43

    If they don't behave, do the likewise, they must respect the rule of law.

  • ntemi.mark - 2012-09-15 17:49

    l 4 one still can't get it why are these chaps when they protest they carrying weapons,why can't they carry placards which sends their message loud&clear? l'm afraid if they gonna continued about what they doing many more lives are gonna lost&the organisers of that protest will carry the cans!

      lacrimosewolf - 2012-09-15 17:55

      Why can't they negotiate and/or use any of the very many processes and procedures provided under law and documented policies? A mediator is needed.

  • henk.vanrensburg.31 - 2012-09-15 19:28

    Eish the comments that gets deleted......

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