South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said one of its shaft chairpersons at platinum producer Lonmin was shot dead in the restive platinum belt town of Marikana, an incident sure to stoke labour tensions.

"He was killed last night. We don't know why at this stage, but there appears to be a resurgence of violence in the area," NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka told the Reuters news agency on Friday.

Police spokesman Thulani Ngubane confirmed a man was gunned down on Thursday night but did not release his name and said the reason for the shooting was unknown.

"He was on his way to the informal settlement that is next to Lonmin. As he was about to pick up his girlfriend, four men opened fire at his vehicle. He got out of the car and he got hit by seven bullets and then died on the scene," he said.

We cannot say if this is linked to the union rivalry or no

Sue Vey, Lonmin

In 2012, tens of thousands of miners expressed disatisfaction with NUM in representing their interests to Lonmin's management and withdrew their membership.

The unprecedented shift in worker membership and loyalty to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) resulted in a violent turf war between the relatively new union and the powerful NUM.

The battle to control the mines resulted in a series of sporadic killings of unionists over the course of the both 2012 and 2013 as the rivalry intensifies.

Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey said the victim was the NUM chairperson at the Roland shaft at the company's Western Platinum mine.

"We cannot say if this is linked to the union rivalry or not," she said.

Lonmin's Marikana operations were at the epicentre of the union conflict last year.

Police shot dead 34 striking miners there in August 2012 in the bloodiest security incident in the country since the demise of apartheid.

Lonmin earlier this year recognized AMCU as the majority union at its operations and stripped bargaining rights and even office space from other unions including NUM, a key labour ally of the ruling ANC.

Source: Agencies