South Africa cracks down on ‘illegal gatherings’ in wake of mining crisis – by Geoffrey York (Globe and Mail – September 14, 2012)posted in Africa Mining, Canadian/International Media Resource Articles, Chromium/Platinum Group Metals |
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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — After weeks of an escalating national crisis in its mining sector, South Africa’s government has announced a sweeping crackdown on weapons and “illegal gatherings” by thousands of striking mineworkers. The government is refusing to say whether it will deploy the army or arrest key political opponents such as Julius Malema, but it left the door open to both options
Reports in the South African media today said the government could arrest Mr. Malema and send soldiers into the mining regions in an attempt to halt the violent wildcat strikes that have forced the closure of the mines of some of the world’s biggest platinum and gold companies.
Many of the striking workers have marched with machetes, spears, sticks and clubs as they hunt down those who fail to join the strike. Another body of a stabbed worker was found this week at a spot where the strikers have gathered. “It appears now that the mining industry is at stake,” Justice Minister Jeff Radebe told a press conference today.
“We can no longer tolerate acts of intimidation, illegal gatherings, the carrying of dangerous weapons in South Africa,” he said.
“They are going to be dealt with very swiftly, without any delay…. Those who want to go to work must be allowed to do so without any intimidation.”
Mr. Radebe, flanked by an extraordinary gathering of South Africa’s most powerful cabinet ministers, refused to rule out the use of live ammunition by police, although he denied that the government would declare a state of emergency.
He also refused to explain how the government would define an “illegal gathering” and how it would disperse the thousands of protestors who have succeeded in shutting down mines that employ more than 40,000 workers.
The mining crisis has been escalating for more than a month, but the government has reacted with a haphazard mixture of alternately repressive and tolerant responses, which have only worsened the crisis. Last month, in the most notorious response, its police killed 34 protesters in a clash at the Lonmin platinum mine near Rustenberg, northwest of Johannesburg.
Asked whether the government would call in the army to disperse the protesters, the cabinet ministers said this was an “operational” issue that the police would decide.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Globe and Mail website: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/south-africa-cracks-down-on-illegal-gatherings-in-wake-of-mining-crisis/article4544571/