Members of Amcu have been implicated in incidents of rioting, destruction of property and looting during the long weekend.
Violence that broke out on Sunday afternoon when protestors threw stones at a government minister culminated in looting and arson late that evening and into early Monday morning.
Police used water cannons and stun grenades to disperse rioters believed to be from the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), who began throwing stones at Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula during an election rally at Freedom Park in the North West Province, the SABC reported.
The stones damaged several vehicles and the minister was ushered to safety by police, according to the report. Mbalula had been conducting a door-to-door campaign in the region, which has been the site of a three-month long strike in the platinum sector, affecting both workers and mining companies.
Following the stoning incident, Eyewitness News yesterday confirmed that a shopping centre next to Impala Platinum’s number 9 shaft in Rustenburg had been looted between Sunday night and the early hours of Monday morning.
According to the report, a crowd of around 4000 people gathered around the mall near midnight, with a community hall and several houses being set alight shortly afterwards. While the looters haven’t been positively identified, it is suspected the incident is linked to the Amcu strike.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Thulani Ngubane said this afternoon that the police had made five arrests in total, one for arson and the other four related to looting and suspected possession of stolen property and public violence. The suspects are expected to appear in court this afternoon.
This weekend’s incidents come on the heels of a spate of criminal activity in the area in recent weeks, including the torching of a shack used as an ANC branch office near Marikana, and the stabbing of two Impala employees.
On Thursday last week, an Impala employee and Amcu affiliate was arrested for allegedly attacking two fellow Impala workers in Rustenburg. According to a police statement, the 27 year-old man had been on the run from police since March, after he and a group of other Amcu members allegedly attacked the workers outside a scrap yard at Extension 13 in Boitekong.
The victims were severely assaulted and stabbed with spears, but managed to escape and seek assistance, according to a police statement. The case is being investigated by the platinum belt task team, with police saying more arrests should be made soon.
The strike, which has dragged on since 23 January, has placed enormous strain on both miners and their families, with striking workers having lost more than R6.4 billion in wages to date.
But North West Premier Thandi Modise had harsh words for perpetrators of regional violence and the disruption of election campaigns, calling it an “affront to the constitution” in a statement on Monday.
“Workers who are involved in the protracted strike should not be misled into taking out their frustration on political parties that wish to campaign in the area as they are not part [sic] to the labour dispute involving Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union and mining houses,” Modise said.
She added that the government had played its part in mediating and bringing the parties to the negotiation table.
“With a new proposal on the table, it is now up to the parties to find one another for an urgent settlement to end the four months old strike which has had a devastating impact on them, our economy and in particular the livelihood of miners and their families,” said Modise.
Talks between the union and mining houses – Impala Platinum, Anglo Platinum and Lonmin – broke down last week after Amcu rejected the companies’ latest offer.