CONFLICT ZONE: A woman washes her laundry at the Marikana informal settlement in North West. Picture: Itumeleng English
Johannesburg - MARIKANA is again degenerating into a death zone, with reports that the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) is at war with itself, as ethnic rivalry and a dispute over leadership turn into a bloodbath.

At least two people have been gunned down, several others injured and many have fled after the intensified bloodshed, believed to have been carried out by Amcu members on each other.

The battle is said to be between the AmaBomvana and AmaMpondo tribes that hail from the former Transkei in the Eastern Cape. They are allegedly fighting over leadership preferences in Amcu’s branch at Wonderkop in North West, which is the union's stronghold.

Amcu’s president Joseph Mathunjwa is accused of siding with the AmaBomvana faction and giving them preferential treatment to run the branch.

The Star visited Marikana last week and witnessed how fear and tension have made people worried about their safety. Some of those interviewed asked to remain anonymous and to meet away from Wonderkop, to avoid being seen talking to the media.

Armed guards from Bidvest Protea Coin security were seen guarding Amcu’s western branch offices.

The branch is key and symbolic among the more than 15 other branches in North West, as it is located near to where 34 mineworkers perished during the 2012 Marikana massacre.

Daniel Maseko and Mpeke Nonyana, from the Impala branches, were shot dead last month.

The western branch chairperson, Malibongwe Mdazo, who escaped an apparent assassination attempt at Mooinooi in August, prevented the family of slain Amcu health and safety officer Mvelisi Biyela from speaking to The Star.

Biyela was shot on September 21 outside his home in Wonderkop.

In August, the branch secretary, Zingisa Mzendana, 30, was shot near a car-wash by unknown gunmen - a few days after he had exposed alleged corruption by Mdazo.

Three gunmen ambushed Biyela around 8.30pm and shot him in front of his wife and six-year-old daughter. He will be buried in Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape on Saturday.

The ground where Biyela’s blood was spilt was still soaked, while an empty water bottle used to clean the blood was still lying on the ground.

A family member said Amcu had promised to relocate them to a place of safety.

Mdazo, who was still nursing an injured right arm, summoned The Star to his offices. He arrived in a minibus accompanied by a group of men who questioned the team's presence there.

“Things are still sensitive at the moment, as you can see We are still doing our own investigations into the killings. We will only grant interviews after Biyela’s funeral," said Mdazo.

On Thursday, Mathunjwa sent an SMS to The Star indicating that he had been advised to address the matter only after the funeral. On Friday, he sent another SMS explaining the accusations against him, to which he did not respond.

But Mathunjwa’s statement released a day after Biyela’s murder seemed to suggest that the killings were being carried out by people from the outside.

“Our members will not be slaughtered like flies. We will fight back and we will fight hard. We do not want crocodile tears from the government, management and the media about action that jeopardises jobs

"We will not fold our arms as our members are killed, their wives left as widows and their children growing up in single-parent families Yesterday’s killing tells us that a war has been declared against Amcu,” the statement said.

In previous statements, Mathunjwa alluded to a third force that was targeting Amcu leaders in and around Rustenburg to destabilise the union and then set up a rival union.

Mathunjwa also accused police of being passive after the union conducted its own investigation and presented its evidence, linked to more than five murders, to the police. “At the point of making an arrest, the police were restrained by a higher authority,” he said.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone said they were yet to make an arrest over Biyela’s death, but that investigations were under way.

Sources close to the conflict claimed the western branch was divided between the AmaMpondo and AmaBomvana factions, following the recent suspension of about 30 members - including Mzendana - who had exposed alleged corruption by Mdazo, a member of the AmaBomvana clan.

Mdazo took over the chairmanship after Zithobile Manqu resigned in June over factionalism.

“At the rate things are going, Marikana will be the next KwaZulu-Natal where ANC members are currently slaughtering one another for positions,” said a former Lonmin miner, who left Marikana recently over safety concerns and went to live in the Eastern Cape.

He said the conflict was exposed two years ago when their shacks in the Nkaneng informal settlement were destroyed by bad weather.

“The company offered temporary houses for the victims elsewhere, but when the list of occupants came, there was another list for only the AmaBomvana. This upset many people, and the president failed to address it,” the man pointed out.

A survivor of the Marikana massacre said the main problem was that people who escaped during the 2012 fatal protests had returned as heroes and hijacked Amcu.

“Many of them ran away and some we don’t even know, but they are now leading Amcu."

The Star