Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Rubber bullets used against miners

Police watch striking mine workers at the Lonmin platinum mine (AP)

Police firing rubber bullets and tear gas have sent men, women and children scattering as they herded them into their shacks in a crackdown on striking miners at a platinum mine.

The show of force follows a South African government vow to halt illegal protests and disarm strikers who have stopped work at one gold and six platinum mines north-west of Johannesburg. The strikes have destabilised South Africa's critical mining sector.

It was the first police action since officers killed 34 miners on August 16 in state violence that shocked the nation.

About 500 officers raided hostels at Lonmin platinum mine before dawn and confiscated home made machetes, spears, knives and clubs, said police spokesman Brig Thulani Ngubane.

A half dozen men were arrested for illegal possession of arms and drugs in those raids, he said. Another six were arrested on Saturday morning.

Officers first fired tear gas at hundreds of miners who refused to disarm at the hill of granite boulders that has become the strikers' headquarters.

Police then moved into the Wonderkop shantytown where residents set up barricades of burning tyres to try to block the officers from their neighbourhood.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at people who disobeyed orders baying over a bull horn for them to stay in their homes, tin shacks without electricity or running water divided by dirt tracks.

An army helicopter flew in to help herd people indoors.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe called a news conference on Friday to say the government was intervening because the mining industry is central to the economy of Africa's richest nation.