Tear gas and rubber bullets used to quell mine violence
SOUTH African police and security guards yesterday fired rubber bullets and tear gas at sacked gold miners who were attacking former colleagues trying to get to work, injuring four employees, according to the owner of the mine.
The mine’s business associates previously involved relatives of Nelson Mandela and president Jacob Zuma, and the location is the same place where firebrand politician Julius Malema, an avowed enemy of Mr Zuma, last week pledged to make the nation’s mines ungovernable.
Cabinet ministers sought to reassure the industry yesterday even as Gold Fields International spokesman Sven Lunsche said about 12,000 of the firm’s workers “continue to engage in an unlawful and unprotected strike” that began last Wednesday.
The mine unrest reached a bloody point on 16 August when police shot 112 striking workers, killing 34 of them, at a platinum mine at Marikana, north-west of Johannesburg. The state violence was reminiscent of apartheid days and has damaged the government’s image.
“The tragic incident at Marikana is not a reflection of the business environment in South Africa,” minister of state in the presidency Collins Chabane said yesterday. “Government remains in control of the situation.”
At the gold mine, miners dismissed after a wild-cat strike in June joined others who lost their jobs two years ago to try to stop workers reaching the gold mine, formerly managed by Aurora, said Neil Froneman, CEO of Gold One International. Police were called to disperse them as the protesting miners stoned a vehicle carrying people to work.
Mr Froneman said: “Our security had to intervene, they used rubber bullets and police used rubber bullets and tear gas. Four people were slightly wounded and all have been released from hospital.”
However, police spokeswoman Pinky Tsinyane said one of those wounded was in critical condition. She said four people have been arrested for public violence.
Aurora was bought two years ago by a group including Mr Zuma’s nephew and a grandson of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela. The two allegedly never paid for the mine but stripped it of most of its assets and now are being sued by liquidators. They have failed to honour court orders that they pay tens of thousands of dollars to miners thrown out of work.
James Lorimer MP, of the opposition Democratic Alliance, blamed the latest violence on the rabble-rousing of Mr Malema, an expelled youth leader of the ruling African National Congress who has been trying to use the unrest to remove Mr Zuma from power.
Mr Malema has told strikers that Mr Zuma and other ANC leaders own shares in mines, alleging that it conflicts with workers’ interests. He has called for Mr Zuma to resign over the police killings.
Mr Malema, who has called for the nationalisation of South Africa’s mines, told workers at the Aurora mine last week they must fight for their economic freedom and make South Africa’s mines ungovernable. Yesterday he posted a message on Twitter saying he would address striking workers at a Gold Fields mine. “Mining Revolution goes on and on and on,” he wrote.
Mr Lunsche said the strike involved a dispute between local branch leaders and members of the National Union of Mineworkers, the country’s largest union.
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