23 January 2014

South Africa: Strikers Carrying Sticks, Sjamboks Into Stadium

Marikana — Some striking mineworkers were carrying sticks and sjamboks into the Wonderkop stadium in Marikana on Thursday, the first day of a wage strike on platinum mines in the North West.

A handful of workers sang and danced while holding the objects. Police were searching cars entering the stadium.

Around 2000 workers had converged at the stadium. Some wore yellow United Democratic Movement T-shirts. No violence had been reported by mid-morning. Police had earlier warned that no weapons would not be allowed at the venue.

North West police spokesman Brigadier Thulani Ngubane said cautionary measures had been taken to prevent the use of dangerous weapons at the gathering. He said the Dangerous Weapons Act that came into effect on January 2 would be invoked. The act defines dangerous weapons as "any object other than a firearm, capable of causing death or inflicting serious bodily harm, if it were used for any unlawful purpose". These weapons include homemade objects, spears, and pangas.

Ngubane could not be reached for further comment on why sticks and sjamboks had been allowed in.

By 10.30am, mineworkers were still waiting at the stadium for leaders of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union to arrive.

A small group in the stadium danced and sang about President Jacob Zuma and ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.

"Hey wena [hey you], Zuma, Mantashe stop being an idiot," they sang.

Members of Amcu at Lonmin in Marikana, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) and Impala Platinum's mines wanted an entry-level monthly salary of R12,500.

On Tuesday, the companies said Amcu's wage demands were unaffordable and unrealistic. Impala Platinum cancelled its Wednesday night shift at its Rustenburg operations and would continue to do so for the duration of Amcu's planned strike, the company said.

This was to mitigate the risk of violence and ensure the safety of employees.

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