South African police kill 2 more in crackdown on strike

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 September, 2012, 3:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 September, 2012, 3:10pm

South African police have killed two more people in a crackdown on striking miners, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and a strike leader said on Thursday.

COSATU condemned the brutality of police who have been harshly criticised for the August 16 shootings of 112 striking miners that left 34 dead at London-registered Lonmin PLC platinum mine. The deaths have traumatised the nation that had not seen such state violence since the white minority apartheid regime was brought down in 1994.

COSATU said African National Congress councilor Paulina Masuhlo was shopping on Saturday near the Never Die Tavern at the Wonderkop shantytown were Lonmin miners live when police firing from a speeding armoured car hit several women. Masuhlo was hit in the abdomen and leg and rushed to the hospital, where she died Wednesday, COSATU said.

Police spokesman Dennis Adriao said he was investigating the report of a death. He said police had reported to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate that several people were hit by rubber bullets in a raid to disarm strikers on Saturday, the day after the government ordered a crackdown.

The directorate already has opened 34 murder and 78 attempted murder charges against police in the Aug. 16 shootings.

But no action has been taken against any of the officers involved. The government has said it is awaiting the outcome of a judicial commission of inquiry that is supposed to report to the president in January.

COSATU called for “the immediate identification and suspension of the police officers involved in her (Masuhlo’s) murder. “

“We are also extremely unhappy that, to date, none of the police officers involved in the massacre on 16 August this year has been identified or suspended - this is totally unacceptable and unlawful,” said the unions body that is part of a governing tripartite alliance with the African National Congress party and the South African Communist Party.

Also on Wednesday, police said they fired rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades to break up a march by thousands of strikers at Amplats mines near Rustenburg belonging to Anglo American Platinum, the world’s largest platinum producer.

Amplats strike leader Evans Ramokga told The Associated Press that a miner was run over by a police armoured car and dragged several meters (feet) before it stopped. He said the man died overnight in the hospital.

Adriao said he was unaware of the incident but added the armoured cars weigh several tons.

The deaths at the two miners, both northwest of Johannesburg, bring the toll to 47 dead in violent strikes rooted in union rivalry.

Lonmin on Tuesday resolved its five-week strike by agreeing to pay raises of up to 22 per cent.

Union leaders warned that sets a precedent for other miners to join demands for better wages. The strike already has spread to several gold, platinum and chrome mines, damaging investor confidence in the country that produces 75 per cent of world platinum and is the No. 4 chrome producer and in the top 10 of gold producers.