KwaZulu-Natal - Two mineworkers were shot dead when they allegedly tried to break into a mine’s armoury in Dannhauser, KwaZulu-Natal, on Wednesday.
It is alleged that the mine’s security guards chased the would-be intruders and fired shots at about 100 striking workers at the Forbes Coal Mine in the Ladybank area of Dannhauser.
Police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker said that the workers had run into an informal settlement before the shots were fired at them.
The two men who were shot, Alfred Mzikayifani Mjiyakho and Sanele Mthethwa, died at the Mdakane Clinic.
Mjiyakho’s son, Sphamandla Mncube. said his 64-year-old father had run into a house.
“[Security guards] dragged him out of the house before they shot him,” said Mncube.
Mncube also works for the mine.
The miners downed tools about three weeks ago in a strike organised by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).
NUM provincial secretary Bongani Manyoni said that the miners were demanding a pay increase of between R1 500 and R2 000 a month.
NUM shop steward Nkosinathi Ximba denied that striking workers had broken the law before they were confronted by the guards.
“Workers were just walking around outside the mine premises when security guards confronted them and threatened them with guns,” said Ximba.
“The workers scattered into the informal settlement. Guards followed them while firing shots.”
Amcu shop steward Paul Mthembu said: “We were asking for better salaries, but they gave us bullets.”
Naicker said that the police were investigating the incident.
“Police are busy on the scene and have seized firearms from all the security guards who were on duty to establish who the shooters were,” he said.
Forbes Coal Mine chief executive Stephan Theron said the company would comment later.
Meanwhile, the six-week strike at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) would continue, the national strike co-ordinating committee said on Wednesday.
“The workers are not going back until the main demand has been met,” said acting chairman Elias Juba.
Speaking after a meeting in Rustenburg, Juna said that workers at Amplats would continue to hold meetings near their workplace, regardless of whether they had been granted a permit.
The workers went on strike on September 12, demanding a monthly salary of R16 000. Amplats fired 12 000 of them after they failed to attend disciplinary hearings.
On Saturday, Amplats offered to reinstate all dismissed workers and to pay them a R2 000 once-off bonus if they returned to work by 7am on Tuesday, but the workers turned the offer down.
Separately, Lonmin Platinum has put unions on notice that it is contemplating restructuring and this could include retrenchments.
“I can confirm that we have notified the unions,” said Lonmin’s vice-president for human capital, Barnard Mokwena.
The notice to unions said that the number of employees who might be affected was not known at this stage.
Lonmin employs 28 042 people.
The company is at the centre of an inquiry into a shooting in which 34 people died and 78 were wounded when the police opened fire on August 16 at workers involved in a wildcat strike for more pay the Lonmin mine near Marikana.