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Rubber bullets, teargas fired after Amplats blaze

Jenni Evans

Police used rubber bullets and teargas to disperse around 1 000 people at Amplats' Rustenburg operation after a power sub-station was set alight.

Police used rubber bullets and teargas to disperse around 1 000 people at Amplats' Rustenburg operation after a power sub-station was set alight. (Reuters)

"Police had to use teargas, stun grenades and rubber bullets to clear the crowd," said Captain Dennis Adriao.

Around 12 000 workers, fired for being on strike, were reinstated at the weekend and were supposed to return to work on Tuesday morning after a lengthy stoppage at the platinum producer.

Adriao said the fire brigade and the police got a call at around 4am that the Khuseleka sub-station – which is on Amplats' property, next to the Nkaneng residential area – had been set alight.

"Since then we have been having running clashes with groups of about 1 000 people who formed a barricade to prevent police from entering," he said.

Speaking just after 9am, he said the situation had quietened down and that the fire had been brought under control but that the police were still in the area maintaining a high visibility.

No arrests had been made.

Part of a larger group
Police believe the group could be part of a larger group of striking miners because they were on mine property.

Comment from Amplats was not immediately available.

On Monday evening, the company said it had held a meeting with striking workers' representatives, but that the outcome was not immediately available to the media.

At the weekend, the company announced that it had agreed with unions and workers' representatives to reinstate the 12 000 employees dismissed and that they were expected to return to work on Tuesday morning.

They had been on strike since September 12 demanding a monthly salary of R16 000. They said their demand was higher than the R12 500 other miners were asking for because Amplats was better off than other companies.

Violent situation
Part of the return to work deal included a once-off-payment of R2 000.

However, the Rustenburg Strike Co-ordinating Committee, a group working outside of traditional union and employee representation, said workers would not return to their posts on Tuesday.

"The strike is on. Workers have crushed the proposal to return to work," said spokesperson Gadaffhi Madoda.

He said workers had heard of the agreement to return to work through the media, which made it difficult for their representatives to explain the agreement to them.

He warned that the situation could turn violent on Tuesday.

Negotiations are underway at the Chamber of Mines to form a central bargaining unit for the platinum sector so that all platinum mining companies will offer the same salaries for the same jobs to avoid anger over differences in increases. – Sapa

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