/ 19 October 2012

Anglogold miners throw stones at Vavi

Zwelinzima Vavi
Zwelinzima Vavi

"These hooligans threw stones at us," National Union of Mineworkers regional coordinator Madoda Sambatha said.

Sambatha said earlier on Friday their entourage had travelled to two other mines. At Kopanong workers told them they were going back to work on Monday and at the other, Vaal reefs number eight, they said they would not.

Both meetings were peaceful.

"We [then] went to Vaal reefs Moab Khotsong and were told that before we arrived, this woman from the Socialist Democratic Movement had already addressed those workers, and said they must not listen to the general secretary of Cosatu."

However, they went ahead and spoke to them. They left their cars and walked in on foot. As they approached they saw two groups – a NUM group waiting for Vavi, and a second group "who are the permanent disrupters", said Sambatha.

"We were on foot. As we were advancing, these hooligans threw stones at us. We retreated."

They drove back to the union's regional offices.

"We are okay. The car was not damaged," he said.

Detained and interrogated
Earlier, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), a Trotskyist organisation that helped form the joint strike coordinating committee across many of the mines beset by strikes say they were detained and interrogated after addressing a crowd of over 1 500 striking workers.

Liv Shange, an executive member of the organisation, said the group had been invited by the mine's strike committee and began addressing workers by midday. Following the address, they met with committee members at one of the mine's hostels.

As they left, Shange said four members of the organisation who were travelling together in a car were followed by mine security vehicles, about five police vans and what appeared to be a security helicopter belonging to the mine. After being stopped, she said they were taken to mine offices where they were interrogated by a team led by a policeman who identified himself as Lieutenant Colonel Pretorius.

"We were stopped aggressively and taken to mine security offices at about 2.30pm and interrogated one by one by a group of 10 men," said Shange. "He said we could only meet with workers if we were a recognised union. I told him we were not a union and had the right to assemble and associate with the workers."

Shange, a Swedish expatriate, said she was also threatened with deportation and asked questions about her family and children.

The DSM, which is part of the UK-based committee for Workers' International, has chapters in over 40 countries. It has been upfront about its role in the ongoing mine strikes which have affected the platinum, gold and diamond sectors. It is also affiliated to the Democratic Left Front, a coalition of leftist organisations. Police have cracked down on the campaign waged in unison with the joint strike coordinating committee by arresting hundreds of striking workers.

The mines have responded by issuing ultimatums to striking workers. Strikes continue however, with workers in many cases disregarding the ultimatums.

George Ntsane, a strike committee member at Anglogold Ashanti said six workers had been arrested for public violence at the mine and that the underground workers would not return to work until their demand of R16 000 salary had been met. – additional reporting by Sapa