Monday, August 27, 2012

Lonmin miners were armed - police

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Lonmin miners were armed - police
2012-08-27 17:06

Lonmin miners in Marikana (Felix Dlangamandla, Beeld)

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Ga-Rankuwa - Strikers were armed when they gathered on a hilltop near Lonmin's Marikana mine in the North West, where police opened fire on them, a senior officer testified on Monday.

Brigadier Jacobus van Zyl, head of Potchefstroom detectives, told the Ga-Rankuwa Magistrate's Court the striking workers held an illegal protest before the deadly clash.

They gathered on the hill near the mine, wielding sharpened rods.

Van Zyl was called by the prosecution team to testify that investigations were still underway, and that the 260 people arrested after the shooting should stay in custody.

Thirty-four people died in the 16 August shooting and 78 were wounded. Ten people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in the preceding week.

Those arrested appeared in batches in the Ga-Rankuwa Magistrate's Court on Monday, on charges ranging from murder to public violence.

Police tried to negotiate

Van Zyl said the police had yet to verify their addresses and check their fingerprints for criminal records and previous convictions.

So far, the investigating teams had found that four of them had pending criminal cases, but the probe was ongoing.

Van Zyl said the process of verifying their home addresses had not ended.

He said Lonmin had indicated they would not be welcome back at work, and he did not know whether they would continue to stay at the mine's hostels.

He said police had tried to negotiate with the workers on the hilltop to disperse peacefully, and to "leave behind the dangerous weapons they were carrying".

Security was tight at the Ga-Rankuwa Magistrate's Court when the first batch of mineworkers were brought into court before 14:00. Dozens of police officers accompanied them into court. Some of the miners held hands when they walked into the courtroom in single file.

Benches on the left-hand side of the court were reserved for the miners. The media and a few other people were on the right.

Unravel what happened

Suspended ANC Youth League spokesperson Floyd Shivambu and secretary general Sindiso Magaqa were among those in attendance.

In the morning, two groups of protesters merged outside the court entrance, demanding the mineworkers' release.

They waved placards, some of which read: "Drop the charges, amnesty for all strikers arrested", "The real criminals are SAPS and Lonmin", and "Phiyega you are a criminal".

The mineworkers were brought to court in trucks escorted by the police's tactical response team members. The convoy drove past the protesters at the entrance at about 10:00.

The miners peered through the trucks' small windows, and banged on the sides of the vehicles. As they made their way onto the court premises, the protesters sang, chanted and wailed.

The main entrance to the court had been sealed off by police officers bearing shields and wearing helmets. Two Nyala armoured vehicles were parked nearby.

The State asked for a seven-day postponement. It said the ongoing investigations were wide and complex. The investigation would allow the State to unravel what had happened at the mine, and additional charges would be laid later.

The State said the probe would be complicated by the fact that some of the miners were immigrants.


Read more on: police | lonmin | lonmin unrest | strikes


Lonmin strikers prevent colleagues from going underground

Reuters | 27 August, 2012 16:09

Mine workers gather while on strike near the scene of a shooting at Marikana, in the north western province August 27, 2012.

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Labour strife returned to South Africa's platinum sector on Monday, derailing London-based Lonmin's efforts to restart mining and fanning fears of a resurgence of the violence that has killed 44 people this month.

Related News
Violence returns near Lonmin's operations Workers blocked colleagues from going down mine shafts and used threats of violence to snarl transport at Lonmin's Marikana mine - where 10 people were killed in a union turf war and police shot dead 34 striking miners.

Last week, South Africa held a week of mourning for those killed in the worst violence of its kind since the end of apartheid, which drew attention to the persistent inequality in pay and living standards in Africa's biggest economy.

The miners' strike has raised fears of cuts in supplies of the precious metal and pushed the spot price of platinum up 10.5 percent over the past fortnight. South Africa has some 80 percent of the world's known platinum reserves.

Suspected police brutality and the problems the government faces in brokering a deal between the rival unions have turned up the heat on the ruling African National Congress and stoked concern about wider labour disputes in the country.

"What we have seen is that if you don't stand up as people, nothing is going to change," said mine worker Thebe Seshanke.

Lonmin, which has suspended most operations for the past two weeks because of a wage strike by 3,000 workers, said only 13 percent of its 28,000-strong workforce had shown up on Monday morning - far too few to restart mining operations.

"There have been incidents of intimidation towards bus drivers overnight as well as intimidation of Eastern's workers this morning, preventing them from coming to work," Lonmin said in a statement, referring to its eastern operations, which had avoided such incidents until now.

Police said there had been reports on Monday of assaults, but gave no details.

Lonmin is the world's third largest producer of platinum, the white metal used in car catalytic converters and jewelry, and accounts for 12 percent of global output. It is losing about 2,500 ounces a day.

The violence stemmed from a bloody turf war, which has been spreading through the sector, between the dominant National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the small but militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).


About 2,000 workers, some carrying sticks and whips, gathered on Monday near a hill where police shot dead striking miners on Aug. 16. Five armoured police vehicles were parked nearby and a police helicopter had earlier hovered overhead.

The AMCU has tapped a swelling vein of discontent with the NUM, whose leaders are increasingly seen as out of touch and too close to their political ally - the ruling ANC.

The strikers, who are rock driller operators, have been demanding a monthly wage of 12,500 rand ($1,500) for their tough and dangerous job. The company says they get about 9,800 rand with an average monthly bonus of 1,500 rand.

Separately, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate said it was investigating more than 100 cases in which police are suspected of assaulting protesters in custody. About 260 miners appeared in a court near Marikana to face charges ranging from murder and attempted murder to intimidation.

ANC insiders say the situation could undermine President Jacob Zuma's populist appeal and hurt his chances of being re-elected ANC leader in December..

The Aug. 16 shootings, dubbed the "Marikana Massacre" by local media, have hit Zuma's support base, widening the divide between him and his former backers in the ANC Youth League and straining his ties with labour.

In another development Eastern Platinum, a small producer, said its operations near Lonmin's were up and running. The NUM had said earlier that workers there were facing intimidation.

Lonmin has said it may issue new shares to shore up a balance sheet hit by lost output and revenue, and the prospect of further losses - at a time when the whole platinum sector is struggling with soaring power and labour costs and weak demand.


Marikana murder docket opened
August 27 2012 at 04:11pm

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A number of striking Lonmin mineworkers lie dead near Wonderkop informal settlement after they were shot by police close to the Marikana platinum mine near Rustenburg. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Rustenburg -

A murder and attempted murder docket has been opened following the shooting deaths of 34 people at Lonmin's Marikana mine, investigators said on Monday.

“We are investigating 34 counts of murder,” Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) spokesman Moses Dlamini said.

Another 32 counts of attempted murder were being investigated.

“This number will change... We would only add more counts as people come forward and say they were injured, or if we ascertain that they were injured.”

The figure of 32 was last updated a day after the August 16 shooting.

The police ministry said 34 people were killed and 78 injured when police officers opened fire to disperse strikers.

Another 10 people were killed in the week leading up to the shootout.

The protests were believed to be linked to rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union over recognition agreements. Workers also wanted higher wages.

The Friends of the Youth League was happy about the news.

“We welcome this development because we said that the establishment of the commission of inquiry... should not prevent 1/8a 3/8 criminal procedure process from being followed,” it said in a statement.

“We strongly believe that each and every murder committed since the beginning of the strike should be accounted for and those who killed be held liable by the state.”

The friends said they would monitor the case closely to ensure justice was done. - Sapa

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