Cosatu rally erupts into open violence
The black shirts tore into the red shirts before cops got tough
It was meant to be a show of support for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), but a rally by trade union federation Cosatu in Rustenburg turned into a battle between unionists and strikers.
Yesterday morning, miners from Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) gathered outside Olympia Park Stadium, declaring themselves “union-less”.
They were waiting for Cosatu and NUM marchers who were making their way towards the stadium – and when the groups met, violence erupted.
Cosatu members wearing “Hands off NUM” T-shirts were attacked and beaten up. Some Cosatu T-shirts were set alight by strikers and a minibus taxi full of Cosatu supporters was pelted with stones.
One of the strikers, Tshepang Moloi, told Sapa they belonged to the Rustenburg branch of the National Striking Committee.
The committee claims to represent striking mine workers in Gauteng, North West and Limpopo.
Moloi said they would not return to work until Amplats increased their salary to R16 000.
“We have a message for (Cosatu general secretary) Zwelinzima Vavi: We are not going back to work until our demands are met.”
Yesterday, Amplats announced it would reinstate 12 000 striking workers who were dismissed after they did not attend disciplinary hearings.
Moloi denied his group attacked Cosatu marchers.
“All we did was ask them politely to take off their T-shirts, which we then set on fire.”
As strikers and Cosatu members scuffled outside the stadium, press photographers tried to intervene, begging people not to hurt each other.
The police used rubber bullets to remove the strikers. Strikers fought back with sticks and stones, but were eventually forced out of the stadium.
Activist and documentary film maker Rehad Desai was stripped down to his underwear by angry Cosatu supporters after he tried to speak to the union’s leadership, assuring them they would be safe.
Desai was accused of buying red T-shirts only to give them to the anti-Cosatu group to burn.
The police later arrested him.
Vavi, SACP secretary-general Blade Nzimande and NUM general secretary Frans Baleni addressed the few Cosatu supporters who were left in the stadium.
Vavi accused Cosatu’s opponents of wanting to keep workers on an unprotected strike.
“They want all these people to be dismissed so that they can march to the Union Buildings, where they can form a political party,” Vavi said.
“It is a desperate attempt to lead workers into a ditch,” he said.
Meanwhile, police say they have recovered a 9mm pistol that was stolen from one of two police officers killed in Marikana in August.
Warrant officers Tsietsi Hendrik Monene and Sello Lepaaku were murdered on August 13 near Lonmin’s Karee mine, allegedly by strikers.
A police-issue R5 rifle, two 9mm pistols and a shotgun were stolen from the officers when they were attacked.
One of the pistols was recovered at the scene of the shooting that left 34 miners dead on August 16.
Police spokesperson Captain Dennis Adriao said the pistol was recovered in the Eastern Cape yesterday.
Four men have been arrested in connection with some of the 10 murders that happened in the run-up to the deadly August 16 confrontation between police and strikers.
Adriao told City Press one of the four suspects gave police information about the location of the gun.
He would not give further information, saying the suspects had not yet pleaded in court.
The four were arrested on Tuesday while returning from the Marikana Commission of Inquiry in Rustenburg.
Adriao said police had approached the Director of Public Prosecutions with evidence gathered during investigations.
This had led to warrants of arrest being issued for the four.
“Police would like to reiterate the fact that the arrest of the four has nothing to do with the intimidation of mine workers who are testifying in the Marikana inquiry,” said Adriao.
“They were merely arrested after police conducted thorough investigations and were confidently convinced that the arrested four had broken the law.”