Earlier today at least seven striking miners have been gunned down and killed by security forces at South African platinum mine. The killings are the latest in a long line of deaths during a strike that is complicated by a bitter and violent inter-union dispute over membership numbers.
Yesterday, South African police ordered thousands of striking miners to leave the vicinity of the Lonmin Marikana platinum mine or face being forcibly removed. Up to 3,000 police officers, an elite paramilitary unit, supported by horses and helicopters, confronted the miners and delivered their ultimatum.
Just before the police attacked the strikers, a spokesman said that:
“Today is unfortunately D-day. It is an illegal gathering. We’ve tried to negotiate and we’ll try again but if that fails, we’ll obviously have to go to a tactical phase”.
The president of AMCU responded by saying:
“There will be bloodshed if the police move in. We are going nowhere. If need be, we are prepared to die here”
Within the last week, ten people, including two policemen, have been killed in a violent turf war, (which is running alongside the strike), between two ‘rival’ trade unions.
The dispute is over membership, and is between the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Workers (AMCU) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and has been on-going for around eight months.
The NUM is viewed as ‘moderate’ and no longer looking after its member’s needs, whereas AMCU are supposedly more militant and ready to confront the bosses. AMCU are alleged to be using ‘strong arm’ tactics in order to get members to change affiliation.
Apart from the temporary inconvenience of lost production, the bosses must be absolutely delighted that working people prefer to fight each other rather than the real enemy.