Union leader killed at platinum mine

A platinum mine in South Africa is the centre of deadly violence as a union leader was shot dead and another one was wounded.

The incident took place at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine on Monday and follows brutal strikes at the mine last year, the AFP reported.

Two men pursued and shot dead a local shaft leader from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), and then gravely wounded the union’s treasurer, according to an NUM official.

The shootings at the mine near Rustenburg, north west of Johannesburg, come as the labour minister proposed a peacekeeping force on the same day to control violence in the mining industry.

This is the same site where police shot dead at least 34 miners last August as they tried to control a violent strike. They maintained it was self-defence.

NUM regional coordinator Mxhasi Sithethi said the union shaft leader was coming out from a morning meeting when two unidentified men came near and shot him.

He endured two gunshot wounds to the head.

“There was no confrontation. Nothing,” Sithethi said.

“He ran back to the office. They followed him and killed him.”

The men then shot the union treasurer at least six times when he faced them. Thirteen used bullet cartridges were located at the scene, Sithethi said.

Police confirmed the killings, but would not disclose anything else.

Over-arching union COSATU, under which NUM operates, said ‘anarchy’ at the mine had ‘created a prevailing sense of impunity’.

Other labour leaders have also been victims of the violence due to the fierce rivalry between NUM and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).

The points of contention are members and bargaining rights.

An AMCU regional organiser was shot dead in a tavern last month, instigating a two-day illegal strike at the mine site. Two brothers allegedly involved in the NUM were killed the same weekend.

Another NUM leader was shot dead in October last year.

“No one is being arrested and not a single person has been convicted for any of these murders,” COSATU said.

The violence comes as Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant suggested a force to control violence in the mining industry in a meeting with unions.

“If there is a need to deploy that peacekeeping force we have to do so in the mining sector as a whole,” she said.

The NUM is an ally of South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC) and was the most popular union in the platinum division.

But its credibility was questioned after it was accused of being too friendly with mine management.

Mining and associated industries in South Africa are worth 468 billion rand ($46 billion) in 2010, making up 20 per cent of Africa’s biggest economy and 60 per cent of exports.

Mines are the biggest private-sector employer in South Africa, and generate huge numbers of votes for the ANC.

President Jacob Zuma asked for peace last week in the mining sector after economic growth plunged to a new low of 0.9 per cent in the first quarter of 2013.

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