Cops killed as conflict spirals at Lonmin
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A bloodied cop groaned in pain while his two colleagues lay dead a short distance away.
They had just been attacked, stabbed and hacked by a group of panga-wielding men near Lonmin’s Karee mine between Rustenburg and Brits, North West, on Monday.
In front of one of the shacks, the bullet-riddled body of one of the alleged attackers lay after he was shot by police during a scuffle over a firearm. The bodies of two more alleged attackers also lay nearby.
National police spokesman Captain Dennis Adriao said the three were shot in retaliation after the police officers were attacked and shot at by a group of men.
According to Adriao, the police officers were patrolling when they were attacked by a large group.
The injured officer was airlifted from the area after being stabilised on the ground.
Monday’s fatalities brought to nine the number of people killed after a protest turned ugly at the weekend.
The names of those killed were yet to be released.
Police helicopters were seen hovering over Lonmin’s platinum mines for the better part of the day as officers on the ground tried to disperse workers who had gathered close to K4 shaft.
Lonmin’s executive vice-president of human capital and external affairs, Barnard Mokwena, said two security guards were killed at the Wonderkop mine complex while guarding National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) offices on Sunday morning.
Later, a 37-year-old employee was killed at the K4 shaft parking lot after a group of people stormed the complex and started attacking workers and stoning cars.
North West police spokesman Brigadier Thulani Ngubane said at least eight cars were set alight.
Mokwena said another body with five bullet wounds was found near a railway line near the Wonderkop plant, between Eastern hostel and Segoelane Village, late on Monday.
“The deceased was dressed in overalls, gumboots and hard hat, which suggests he was either going to work or coming from work when attacked and killed,” he said.
Mokwena said eight other people suffered injuries in outbreaks of violence across the mine.
But, despite this, mine management was yet to receive any formal grievances in a form of a memorandum from any union.
“If there is any issue, then we can resolve them in a civilised manner and avoid all these unnecessary killings. We have contacted unions and they said they’re not involved,” Mokwena said.
Lonmin released a statement on Sunday saying the violent incidents were as a result of a “suspected inter-union conflict”.
The company said the unrest started after an “illegal work stoppage and protest march on Friday by approximately 3 000 rock drill operators, which quickly spiralled into criminal actions by rival factions”.
These are core workers in mining who drill the rocks before they are blasted, and actual mining and extraction begins. Without rock drill operators, not much mining operation can take place, Mokwena noted.
Mokwena said Lonmin has about 4 100 rock drill operators. He added that Lonmin would not be able to enter into any salary negotiations because the mine already has an existing two-year wage agreement with workers.
He said Lonmin was in the process of getting a court order to get rock drill operators back to work.
Police said workers who had not joined the strike, and who were trying to report for duty, were attacked as the violent escalated.
NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said his union was unaware of any salary grievances, saying they were aware of an existing salary agreement.
“We don’t know who is involved in this ongoing violence. We’re, however, now involved in the process of trying to get back the situation back to normal,” he said.
Meanwhile, Adriao said national police chief General Riah Phiyega was on her way to the scene on Monday night.