MARIKANA, South Africa (Reuters) – South African police on Saturday fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse miners rallying in Marikana after raids on their hostels to seize arms, witnesses said.
About 500 police officers raided the hostels at Lonmin’s Karee platinum mine near Marikana, scene of the killing of 34 miners by police last month, in the early morning and seized machetes, spears and other weapons, police spokesman Thulani Ngubane said
Saturday’s incident was the latest in five weeks of labour unrest that has choked off platinum production in the world’s top producer of the precious metal.
It broke out as Lonmin increased its pay offer to striking miners, although the revised figure was still short of the 12,500 rand that they demand. An earlier offer on Friday was rejected.
Police arrested five people in the raids on the hostels, home to about 6,000 miners, but for drugs offences not weapons, Ngubane said.
“The aim of the raid was to disarm the mine workers to make sure that we do away with the elements of threats that are taking their toll in the area of Marikana,” Ngubane said.
Miners later gathered at a field in Marikana, about 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, and police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them, a Reuters journalist at the scene said.
In Marikana last month police shot 34 striking miners dead in a single day, the bloodiest police action in South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994. A total of 44 people have been killed in the unrest. Read more…