Police disperse march by striking miners

Reporters on the scene said workers dispersed peacefully after a row of armoured police trucks stopped them from marching on the police station in the north-west town of Rustenburg, a day after officers fired rubber bullets to break up a protest by miners in nearby Marikana.

"The police have blocked us. They are dispersing us. Now we are telling our people to go back to where we came from" in order to avoid any conflict, said Gaddhafi Mdoda, a workers' committee member at Anglo American Platinum.

Workers were not carrying their usual protest gear of machetes, spears and sticks a day after police moved into platinum giant Lonmin's strike-hit Marikana mine to raid worker residences and seize weapons.

Hundreds of officers raided worker hostels and also used rubber bullets and tear gas Saturday, with clashes breaking out in a settlement opposite the mine.

The marchers had planned to march on the police station on Sunday to protest against the use of force, exactly a month after police gunned down 34 protesters at Lonmin in the worst security violence since the fall of apartheid 18 years ago.


Mdoda said the police station march had been "peaceful".

"But they are telling us that they are giving a few minutes to disperse, so that's a big threat," he said.

Rising strike tensions that have spilled over from Lonmin have spread around the region and forced shut-downs at several mines, including those of the world's top platinum producer Anglo American Platinum and number four producer Aquarius Platinum.

The government on Friday announced it would no longer tolerate the growing labour strife, saying it would act against illegal gatherings, weapons, incitement and threats of violence that have characterised the unrest.

'Hard times'

Meanwhile, industrial action does not necessarily mean the entire mining industry is in crisis, the Chamber of Mines said on Sunday.

"We need to understand the causes of the industrial action that is taking place when we have existing wage agreements," spokesperson Vusi Mabena said.

Strikes were not taking place across the sector, he said. They were restricted to platinum and possibly to gold.

It was a "serious generalisation" to say that the industry was in crisis.

"When the strikes took place, the platinum industry was going through hard times," he said.

There were not enough buyers, and a task team from the government and industry had been investigating alternative markets in order for the platinum industry to be sustainable.

"When the demand [for a salary of R12 500 a month] came in, there were already concerns about the sector," he said. – AFP, Sapa

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