Tensions as S Africa miners continue strikes

Mine reports 13 per cent worker attendance, while President Zuma faces pressure over violence that left 44 people dead.

Hundreds of defiant miners have regrouped for a protest near the spot where South African police killed 34 of their colleagues, as platinum giant Lonmin said less than a quarter of employees had shown up for work.

“Preliminary figures are 13 per cent average attendance across all shafts this morning,” said Lonmin in a statement on Monday.

“There have been incidents of intimidation towards bus drivers overnight as well as intimidation of… workers this morning, preventing them from coming to work.

– Platinum giant Lonmin

This comes as Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s president, is under increased pressure to manage the situation amid calls from some sectors that he should not be re-elected to the head of the country’s ruling party in December.

Strikers gathered on Monday in an open space, just metres from where police shot dead 34 of their colleagues on August 16. Earlier strike violence in the area had claimed the lives of 10 other people, including two policemen.

Police in armoured trucks kept a close watch over the crowd, as tensions and fears remained high following the deadly unrest.

“There have been incidents of intimidation towards bus drivers overnight as well as intimidation of… workers this morning, preventing them from coming to work,” Lonmin said, after a high of 57 per cent of workers reported for duty at the weekend.

“We are aware that some people have gone back to work, we have noted that behaviour, and we need to come up with a plan to deal with them,” Alfonso Mofokeng, a miner from Lesotho told AFP news agency.

“By going to work they are say[ing] the murder that happened here was in vain, and they are fine with it,” he said.

‘Shot from behind’

South Africa’s police watchdog on Monday was probing complaints that officers had beaten and injured platinum workers arrested after the police shooting.

Families of slain South Africa miners struggle to cope 

“We are investigating allegations of assault,” said Independent Police Investigative Directorate spokesman Moses Dlamini.

Autopsy reports on most of dead meanwhile showed they had been shot from behind, a local newspaper reported on Monday.

“The post-mortem reports indicate that most of the people were fleeing from the police when they got killed,” an unnamed source involved in the investigation told The Star newspaper.

“A lot of them were shot in the back and the bullets exited through their chests,” said the source, adding only a few were found to have been shot from the front.

Operations at the Marikana mine, the world’s third-largest platinum producer, ground to a halt on August 10 when 3,000 rock drill operators started a vigil on a hill, demanding a pay rise.

The strike degenerated into violent clashes between workers, linked to a turf war between the dominant National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the smaller Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), and left 10 people dead, including two policemen.

On August 16, police called in to end the strike opened fire on the miners killing 34 people. They said they were acting in self-defence.

Zuma under pressure

Police arrested more than 250 people after the shooting. The arrested workers were due to appear in court on Monday on charges ranging from murder to public violence.

President Jacob Zuma is expected to face tough questioning over the violence as he appears before ANC committee [AP]

Lonmin said it was hoping most of its 28,000 workers would clock in on Monday.

It said it was due to meet for a fresh round of talks on Monday with representatives of the striking workers.

Meanwhile, Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s president, is expected to face tough questioning over the violence as he appears before the national executive committee of his ruling African National Congress (ANC) in Pretoria, said Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Johannesburg.

“Politics in South africa are definitely getting very very interesting,” she said.

“Various ANC branches are locked in debate on whether to retain ANC president Jacob Zuma for a second term or replace him with the deputy, Kgalema Mothlanthe.

“The ANC has a crucial elective conference in December where Zuma wants to get a second term as party leader.

“Zuma has in the past managed to get himself out of very sticky situations … The crucial thing is how is he going to manage this latest crisis at Marikana and is he able to convince as many people as possible to vote for him at the very crucial December conference,” Mutasa said.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies