South African police halt peaceful protest
Hundreds of miners heading for Rustenburg police station on Sunday were persuaded by police to disperse, as they lacked a permit allowing them to hold a public demonstration.
Some carried sticks but none carried the machetes, spears and clubs that have marked previous protests for higher wages.
The purpose of the march was to demand an end to the violence against strikers.
The protest was the latest incident in five weeks of labour unrest that has choked off platinum production in the world’s top producer of the precious metal.
On Saturday South African police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters at a platinum mine where 45 people were killed over a deadly wage dispute that erupted at the beginning of August.
The show of force followed a government threat to halt illegal protests and disarm strikers who have stopped work at one gold and six platinum mines northwest of Johannesburg.
It was the first police action since 34 miners were killed on August 16 when security forces opened fire at the Marikana mine.
About 500 officers raided hostels at Lonmin PLC platinum mine before dawn and confiscated homemade machetes, spears, knives and clubs, police spokesman Brigadier Thulani Ngubane said.
Half a dozen men were arrested for illegal possession of arms and drugs in those raids, he said. Another six were arrested earlier during the day.
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 tires to try to block the officers from their neighbourhood.
Military helicopters and armoured police cars have been circling the Marikana mine since a gathering Saturday morning turned violent, Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa reported.
The South African government had announced a security clampdown a day earlier in a bid to deal with five weeks of industrial action that has hit the country’s platinum sector.
Jeff Radebe, the justice minister, said the police would act against “illegal gatherings” and the carrying of weapons, but failed to say how the police would put it into effect.
He said the government would no longer tolerate the illegal protests where miners brandish weapons. Such marches have become daily events as the strike at Lonmin PLC platinum mine entered its fifth week.
“Our government is making a clarion call to all South African to desist from all these illegal acts and must work with law enforcement agencies to ensure that this situation is brought to normality,” he said.
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