Johannesburg - Protesting workers at Lonmin's Marikana mine need to exercise restraint, the ANC Youth League said on Wednesday.
“The loss of even one worker is always one life too many, but the killing of 10 people is a tragedy of epic proportions,” spokeswoman Khusela Sangoni-Khawe said in a statement.
“During this time, the African National Congress Youth League echoes (the Congress of SA Trade Unions') call for workers to exercise maximum discipline and restraint in the face of faceless and nameless provocation.”
Violence erupted at the mine near Rustenburg on Friday after about 3000 rock drill operators downed tools in an illegal strike and began protesting.
The protests are believed to be linked to rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers (Num) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) over recognition agreements at the mine.
Workers also wanted higher wages.
Sangoni-Khawe said that Lonmin, Num and Amcu needed to take joint responsibility for the recent violence, as “this matter cannot be relegated to a blame session between the unions and the company”.
“We call therefore for an immediate end to the hostilities between Num and Amcu and for Num to lead in true tradition of the Congress movement and initiate discussion with all stakeholders to resolve the current impasse.”
She said the ANCYL wanted to remind both unions of the constitutionally enshrined right of workers to freedom of association.
“No union shall be allowed to use the lives of people (to) bolster their support...”
The 10 people killed since the protests began comprised of two police officers, two security guards, three protesters and three other men.
“The manner in which these murderous and heinous crimes were carried out is indicative of an organised and orchestrated campaign against workers,” Sangoni-Khawe said.
The Youth League had not assumed that calls for democratisation of workplaces would need to be extended to “the revolutionary and progressive trade union movement”.
Earlier, trade union Solidarity expressed concern about the safety of non-striking workers at the mine.
General secretary Gideon du Plessis said the union was grateful to the police for sending reinforcements to the area.
“We believe that employees can work under the current circumstances, but we will continually monitor the situation together with Lonmin's management,” he said.
“Although there is a strong police presence in the veld and residential areas near the mine, Solidarity is of the opinion that the shafts at the mines must be safeguarded to enable employees to go to work without fear.”
If the union felt its members were not adequately protected, it would hold talks with mine management.
Police spokesman Captain Dennis Adriao said protecting the mine shafts was not in the police's jurisdiction and referred questions about these security arrangements to the mine.
Lonmin declined to comment on the protection it was affording to non-striking workers.
Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu expressed concern over the violent protests at the North West mine, her office said on Wednesday.
“The minister is gravely concerned, and is condemning the violence at Lonmin's Marikana mine, and will engage with the minister of police,” her spokeswoman Zingaphi Jakuja said.
Shabangu said those who committed crimes during the protest needed to be brought to book.
Chamber of Mines spokesman Jabu Maphalala said the employers' organisation would not comment on the unrest as it did not have enough information. - Sapa