Police patrolling the Nkaneng informal settlement near Anglo American Platinum’s Rustenburg mine made a gruesome discovery yesterday – a man up in flames, set alight apparently for going to work.
Nearby another man lay badly injured with two gunshot wounds. He had to be airlifted to hospital, where he later died. The other man died on the scene.
The identities of the two were yet to be released, but their deaths bring to 51 the number of people who have died since the mining strikes started in the area.
Police said they found both men close to Turffontein shaft between 6am and 7am.
When The Star arrived at the scene, the burnt-out shell of a Toyota Quantum minibus taxi attested to the earlier violence on the road linking Marikana and Rustenburg.
A witness said the taxi was attacked by striking miners, who believed it was transporting their colleagues who were going to work.
He could not confirm if the deceased miners were passengers in the same taxi. They were found a distance away from the taxi.
“The police have acted swiftly in containing the situation and arrested more than 40 people in connection with incidents of public violence.
“They will also face charges of murder and damage to property,” said police spokesman Brigadier Thulani Ngubane.
Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole confirmed the death of an employee, saying he was “murdered on his way to work at the Western limb tailings retreatment plant on Thursday”.
News of the burning of more vehicles opened old wounds for Amplats employee Petrus Mashinini, not his real name.
Sitting at his flat in Rustenburg, Mashinini, who has not been on strike and works as a shaft timberman – a senior position at the mine – said the mine had been sending them smses informing them of places where they could secretly report for duty.
“I was leaving the mining area [last week Tuesday] when I drove into a group of people near Khomanani shaft. The sound of a hail of stones hitting my car and that of driving over large stones keeps me awake at night,” Mashinini said.
“I drove off the road, abandoned my car and fled to a security gate. When I came back with security guards, I stood there looking at striking miners setting my car alight and as it burnt, until it was just a shell.
“I don’t know how I survived and am thankful that I was not hurt, but now where do I go now? I only bought my car in January and did not have insurance, but I was in that area because the mine asked me to report for duty.
“This strike must come to an end because innocent people are now becoming victims, because we’re talking about very cruel people here.”
Police were last night appealing to people to avoid the Marikana road passing the Bleskop stadium and going through the Nkaneng settlement, saying it was littered with stones.
In other incidents at Amplats Bathopele mine in Rustenburg, police said, about 600 striking miners were “picketing and threatening to throw petrol bombs at the car parking area of the mineshaft”. They went there in a bid to force management to halt operations.
“When the mine management became aware of these threats, they alerted the police and released people for their safety,” Ngubane said.
Striking committee member Evans Ramokga said their attempts to “calm down workers seem to be falling on deaf ears”.
“They’re very angry and the situation has gone out of control. We’re also unable to address them properly because we’re being denied permission to gather,” he said. “Right now we’re waiting for [Amplats] to call us when they’re ready to address our issues.”