x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

South African police kill two more in strike crackdown

South Africa's president yesterday ordered military forces to assist police trying to control labour unrest in the nation's crucial mining sector as two more deaths were reported.

RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA // South Africa's president yesterday ordered military forces to assist police trying to control labour unrest in the nation's crucial mining sector as two more deaths were reported.

Even as miners returned to work at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana where police killed 34 miners on August 16 labour advocates said police killed two more people: a ruling party municipal councillor who died of injuries from a rubber bullet and a miner who was run over by an armoured car.

The president, Jacob Zuma, said he was invoking the constitution to use the military to support police "in the prevention and combating of crime as well as the maintenance of law and order in the Marikana area ... and other areas around the country where needed" until January 31. Last weekend some 1,000 soldiers were sent into the "platinum belt" 100 kilometres north-west of Johannesburg.

Yesterday, police in two water cannon trucks and several armoured cars confronted striking Anglo American Platinum miners at a shantytown where residents set up barricades of rocks and burning tires and logs. Before long, the fires died down and most of the police pulled back. The people dispersed, leaving a herd of goats milling around the water cannons. Evans Ramokga, the strike leader, said one miner was run over on Wednesday by a police armoured car and dragged several metres before it stopped. He said the man died overnight in the hospital.

A police spokesman, Dennis Adriao, said he was unaware of the incident which occurred at the scene where police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades to break up a march by thousands of strikers. The mines near Rustenburg belong to Anglo American Platinum, the world's largest platinum producer.

"The only thing we want is to sit down and have them hear our demands," Mr Ramokga said. He said authorities have refused to give permission for the thousands of strikers among Anglo's 15,000 workers there to hold a protest march to back their demands for a gross monthly salary of 16,070 rand (Dh7,100).

Anglo issued an ultimatum for workers to report for duty by late last night or threatened to act on a court order declaring the strike illegal. That gives Anglo the power to fire strikers.

The Marikana Solidarity Campaign meanwhile reported that African National Congress councillor Paulina Masutlhe was shopping on Saturday at the Wonderkop shantytown where Lonmin platinum miners live when police firing from a speeding armoured car hit several women. Ms Masutlhe was hit in the abdomen and leg and rushed to the hospital, where she died on Wednesday, a statement said.

The solidarity campaign condemned the brutality of police and called for "the immediate identification and suspension of the police officers involved in [Masutlhe's] murder".

The deaths bring the strike-related death toll to 47.

Lonmin on Tuesday resolved its five-week strike by agreeing to pay raises of 16 to 22 per cent.

The strike already has spread to several gold, platinum and chrome mines, damaging investor confidence in the country that produces 75 per cent of world platinum and is the No 4 chrome producer and in the top 10 of gold producers.