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Intervention needed at Amplats - Modise

Johannesburg - Urgent intervention is required at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) in Rustenburg after 13 people were injured in alleged union rivalry on Monday, North West Premier Thandi Modise said.

“Though there were no fatalities, we are extremely worried that unions within the mining sector are allegedly involved in a bitter turf war that might open old wounds,” Modise said in a statement.

“The price that we all paid in Marikana was too costly for us not to be concerned about the impact recent developments might have on our economy.”

On Monday, 13 people were injured at the Siphumelele shaft at Amplats in a clash between security guards and workers, North West police said.

“Some of the people were hacked with pangas and sharp objects, while others were shot with security rubber bullets,” Brigadier Thulani Ngubane said in a statement.

“A group of about 1 000-strong... attacked four people who were at the union offices. Mine security intervened and fired rubber bullets, and in the process a total of 13 people, including four security guards, were injured.”

He said the injured people were admitted to Bleskop Hospital.

Ngubane said four National Union of Mineworkers' (NUM) shop stewards arrived at the mine premises to reclaim occupancy of union offices.

“Allegations further state that other mineworkers of Amcu Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union were not happy with their return,” he said.

“It is alleged that the mineworkers who were not happy complained to the management and demanded that the four workers must be sent back home.”

He said NUM members survived by “running for their lives” and hiding in the union's offices.

Modise said the union rivalry between NUM and Amcu called for “urgent dispute resolution interventions to prevent another bloodbath”.

She was referring to the deaths of 44 people during an unprotected strike at Lonmin Platinum's mine in Marikana last year.

On August 16, 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 were injured when police opened fire while trying to disperse a group which had gathered on a hill near the mine.

Ten people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed near the mine in the preceding week.

Ngubane said the situation remained the same at 10.45pm and that no deaths had been reported at Amplats.

Amplats spokesperson Mpumi Sithole confirmed the clash and said members of the workers' committee were contesting “NUM's legitimacy at the mine, and were demanding that NUM vacate its offices”.

“The company is currently in the process of validating union membership at Rustenburg and the mines north of the Pilanesberg,” she said in a statement.

“Anglo American Platinum expresses its deep concern about this incident and appeals for its employees to remain calm and respect the company's dispute resolution process.”

Ngubane said the police were investigating cases of public violence, attempted murder and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Earlier, the Amplats Workers' Committee said five NUM members were shot.

One of them was shot in the head, the committee said.

In August last year, Amplats fired 12 000 strikers from its Rustenburg operation.

The workers were later taken back.

They had gone on a wildcat strike, demanding a R16 000 salary before deductions.

In January, workers at three of Amplats' operations went on strike hours after the company announced plans to mothball shafts and cut 14 000 jobs.

Amplats lost R3.4-billion in revenue when production ground to a halt in mid-September. - Sapa

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