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Fourth mine shuts down, govt warns strikers

Sep 14 2012 18:43 Sapa

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Johannesburg - Seven people were arrested by police outside Aquarius Platinum [JSE:AQP] in Rustenburg on Friday as it became the fourth mine to stop operations in a protracted labour dispute.

The arrests came within hours of Justice Minister Jeff Radebe warning that government would no longer tolerate the violence, threats and intimidation taking place in the mining sector.

In an announcement made in Pretoria, following a meeting of security cluster ministers and other Cabinet members, he announced measures to be put in place to ensure the situation was brought under control.

These included that "illegal gatherings, the carrying of dangerous weapons, and incitement, as well as threats of violence against anyone in the affected areas, will be dealt with accordingly".

Radebe said law enforcement agencies "will not hesitate to arrest those who have been found to have contravened the law".

Earlier a group of protesters had marched from Anglo American Platinum's (Amplats) Blesbok stadium to Aquarius Platinum and demanded that it close.

Mametlwe Sebei, leader of a group which has called itself the Democratic Socialist Movement, told the protesters that all mines in Rustenburg must come to a halt next week.

Sebei said protests were continuing to close all mines in the area and named Samancor, Xstrata, Murray & Roberts, Implats and Amandelbult.

They gave the company 15 minutes to respond.

Shortly after police were seen chasing after protesters.

A police helicopter cornered one of the protesters, who was also being chased by policemen on the ground, and then arrested him. Stun grenades were fired and protesters ran off, clearing the area quickly.

Aquarius, the third platinum mine to be affected, announced that it would suspend operations for the weekend and hoped to recommence on Sunday.

Meanwhile, talks to resolve over a month-long strike at Lonmin [JSE:LON] continued on Friday, as did talks to resolve a week-long strike at Gold Fields [JSE:GFI] KDC west gold mine near Carletonville.

Amplats suspended operations on Wednesday for safety reasons.

The National Union of Mineworkers (Num) convened an urgent national executive committee meeting on Friday to discuss developments in a period which has seen its leaders insulted in public by some striking workers who say they have lost faith in the union.

In a speech, expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema called for the Num leadership to step down and for a national mining strike five days a month.
Lonmin tabled an offer to the striking workers on Thursday night.

It was reportedly a R900 increase, to R5500 a month for entry-level workers, with all other operators being moved up one pay grade.

This was according to Num general secretary Frans Baleni.

Unions said the initial response from workers was a rejection of the offer.

Forty five people have died in events associated with the strike at Lonmin - 34 in a clash with police,

At Gold Fields KDC west mine near Carletonville, 85% of a workforce of 15 000 were on strike and at Lonmin 28 000 employees were affected.

The ruling African National Congress welcomed government's "reflections" on the situation.

"It is the responsibility of our government to contain these isolated events, bring the situation under control and to ensure that order, peace and stability are restored," the ANC said.

It called on government, labour, business and civic society to work together towards a peaceful resolution of disputes.

"We need to recommit ourselves to effective social dialogue and to strive to find a common vision to take us forward," it said.

"We call on the strikers to observe and act in accordance with the rule of law, and to desist from illegal acts, incitement, as well as threats of violence."

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