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North West - Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) insisted on Wednesday that protesters gathered near its Thembelani mine, in Rustenburg, were not its employees.
“The facts are, our employees are not on strike. The people who are chanting around the mines are from neighbouring communities and we cannot identify who they are,” said Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole.
A large group of protesters, carrying traditional weapons, gathered at a Thembelani mine shaft on Wednesday morning.
Police kept watch, with five Nyalas and a water cannon at the scene. A police helicopter hovered overhead.
The protesters said they were demanding a monthly wage of R12,500, the same as other protesting miners at the nearby Lonmin-owned mines.
“We have been observing our colleagues strike. We also want that R12,500 and we are going to get it,” said an elderly protester wielding a knobkerrie. He declined to be named for fear of reprisal.
Most of the protesters sat in a field under a scorching sun. Small groups, clutching sticks and clubs, marched, sang and danced.
Some men arrived at the scene wearing African National Congress Youth League regalia. They joined the protesters, but declined to speak to the media about their role in the strike.
Sithole said no memorandum of demands for a wage increase had been given to management by staff members.
Staff members had been “re-directed” to another location, away from the mine, for their own safety following reports of intimidation.
“To ensure the safety and security of our employees, management took the decision to re-direct employees to a neutral place,” Sithole said.
She said about 3000 workers had been re-directed.
“We confirm that yesterday (Tuesday), some of our employees were unable to clock in for night-shift due to fear of intimidation and threats by unidentified individuals in and around our Rustenburg operations.”
She said “widespread cases” had been reported of intimidation against Amplats workers throughout the Rustenburg area.
Earlier, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said its members had been initimidated since Sunday.
“There is apparently a high-level of intimidation,” NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said. “There is a group that is coercing people to gather and have a strike.”
Seshoka said this group was initially rebuffed, but had since threatened workers with violence if they did not go on strike on Wednesday.
“They tell you that next time you do this thing we're going to burn you. It's no longer going to be an issue of putting petrol on you and leaving you. You're going to get burned,” Seshoka said.
He claimed the labour unrest at Amplats was connected to recent troubles at Impala Platinum and Lonmin in Marikana.
“The people who are responsible for organising this threatening (of) are the same people who are doing it at Marikana and Impala.
“A couple of people come and they start talking to workers. If you don't listen, you are dealt with,” Seshoka said.
The protests at Amplats have also resulted in the suspension of a two-day mine auction scheduled to begin on Thursday.
Auctioneer Aucor said in a statement that it was cancelling the auction of redundant and obsolete assets because of striking miners and labour unrest, which was scheduled to take place at Amplats on Wednesday.
“Furthermore, as a precaution, upcoming auctions due to take place at the Kloof and Driefontein mines next week have also been postponed,” the company said. - Sapa