Police fire rubber bullets at Amplats miners

Police used rubber bullets and teargas to disperse a group of people gathered near Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) in Rustenburg on Wednesday, said a spokesman.

“Police dispersed people trying to gather illegally. As we have said, we are not tolerating any illegal gatherings,” said Captain Dennis Adriao.

“Police utilised teargas and stun grenades, and rubber bullets were used at the [nearby] squatter camp.”

Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said: “I can confirm that [the police have] dispersed a group of people gathering illegally at Sondela informal settlement.

“We do not know why the people were gathered and cannot confirm if they are our employees. As reported yesterday [Tuesday], our mines are operational…”

Last week, government ministers in Cabinet’s security cluster said the government would no longer tolerate violence, threats and intimidation taking place in the mining sector, as massive strikes sprang up along Rustenburg’s platinum belt, with another one near Carletonville.

The measures included a crackdown on illegal gatherings, the carrying of dangerous weapons, incitement, and threats of violence against anyone in the affected areas.

Adriao said that for large groups of people to gather, in terms of the Regulation of Gatherings Act, they had to give notice to the local municipality for the gathering to take place.

Section four set out certain conditions for the gathering.

“Police need to be present, emergency services need to be on standby, marshalls present the whole day. Water points need to be established,” said Adriao.

The relevant municipality in this case was Rustenburg.

Further details were not immediately available, but SAFM reported that mineworkers near Jabula and Thembelani mine had been arrested and that the gathering was related to an unprotected pay strike.

After suspending operations last week, citing employee safety due to the situation in the region, Amplats resumed operations on Tuesday.

Workers were paid over the suspension period, and praised the company for this.

On Friday, during the operations suspension, they marched to the company’s Bleskop stadium and decided that they also wanted a salary increase.

Unlike their mining colleagues at other operations, who were seeking R12,500, they said they wanted R16,070 and other modifications to their fringe benefits.

On Tuesday night a lengthy strike at nearby Lonmin ended with a wage agreement.