Three miners dead as strike drags on

NUM-affiliated miners at Sibanye Stillwaters have ended the strike but two of their members have died in the violence. /Kabelo Mokoena
NUM-affiliated miners at Sibanye Stillwaters have ended the strike but two of their members have died in the violence. /Kabelo Mokoena

The ongoing strike at Sibanye-Stillwater mines has allegedly been characterised by intimidation and violence that has now claimed three lives.

As a result the company has written an open letter to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union
(Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa urging him to end the strike.

About 15000 Amcu-affiliated workers downed tools at Sibanye's gold operations on November 21 after rejecting a wage agreement which was accepted by three other unions.

Amcu is demanding a R12,500 salary and R1,000
annual increment for three years.

Since the beginning of the strike, two mineworkers have died at Sibanye's Beatrix mine in Welkom, Free State, while one died at Driefontein Hostel in Carletonville.

Free State police spokesperson Col Thandi Mbambo said a 53-year-old man who was a member of National Union Mineworkers (NUM), was found murdered following protests last month.

Mbambo said no arrests had been made.

She also said an inquest was being investigated after a mineworker was found floating at Bloudrif Dam near Beatrix mine on November 29.

"It is suspected that he was one of a group of mineworkers who were chased by security personnel of Beatrix mine a day before," Mbambo said.

A third mineworker, also affiliated to NUM, was found dead with stab wounds at the Driefontein Hostel.

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Peter Masooa, however, could not say if the death was related to the ongoing strike.

In an open letter to Mathunjwa, Sibanye's head of human resources Themba Nkosi pleaded with him to halt the strike for the safety and wellbeing of employees.

Nkosi said Mathunjwa should consider that mineworkers' families would also suffer if the strike continued as the "no work, no pay" principle would be applied.

"Unfortunately, the strike called by Amcu has been characterised by intimidation and violence, which has resulted in the needless loss of three lives, employees being assaulted and a female police officer being severely assaulted and stripped of her weapon and equipment," Nkosi said.

"This is unacceptable. We urge Amcu to sign the peace pact that was discussed with all stakeholders, and further request their members to refrain from impeding our peace and stability attempts."

NUM's Beatrix branch deputy chairperson, Teboho Mohale, said the deaths of their members was disturbing as they were not on strike.

"The member who was shot had returned from Free State to bury his father. He was not part of the strike," Mohale said.

He said a second member was stabbed by picketing mineworkers who accused him of being a sellout for reporting for duty while they were fighting for higher wages.

"It is unacceptable, but we hope the police will bring those responsible for their deaths to book because workers cannot be forced to engage in pickets," he said.

Mathunjwa did not respond to Sowetan's request for comment.

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