South Africa police fire rubber bullets at miners

September 15, 2012 10:26 am


Thousands of miners of SA’s strike-hit platinum belt gather for a rally on September 13 in Rustenurg/AFP
MARIKANA, Sep 15 – South African police fired rubber bullets and tear gas on Saturday to disperse workers at platinum giant Lonmin’s strike-hit Marikana mine in a crackdown on rising unrest in the key industry.

An AFP photographer on the scene said rubber bullets were used after hundreds of workers regrouped in a shantytown near where police shot dead 34 people last month.

Protesters threw stones at officers and set tyres alight. One man was bleeding after being shot in the arm and the side of his body.

A police helicopter kept watch from above as officers in armoured trucks clashed with workers who had earlier dispersed after tear gas was used to break up a gathering.

Police said they had also staged an early morning raid on worker hostels, seizing traditional weapons and arresting five people.

“Five hundred members (officers) intervened at 2:00 am (1200 GMT) in an area with hostels where about 600 miners are residing around Marikana,” regional police spokesman Thulani Ngubane told AFP.

“We took pangas (machetes) and (other) dangerous weapons.”

The government Friday announced a security crackdown to stamp out the strife that as hit the northwest town of Rustenburg’s platinum belt and forced mines to suspend operations.

The strikes have spilled over from a bitter wage battle at world number three platinum producer Lonmin, whose Marikana operation has been crippled since a wildcat strike erupted last month.

The stayaway exploded into violence that has killed 45 people in all.

The state’s clampdown is targeting the illegal gatherings and weapons that have characterised the unrest. Miners, many armed with spears and machetes, have been mobilising at mines with fiery threats of violence and further strike action.

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