Arrested miners now face dismissal

28 August 2012 - 02:14 By GRAEME HOSKEN and AMUKELANI CHAUKE
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None of the 259 striking Lonmin workers who appeared in court yesterday would be allowed to return to work, a police officer investigating the charges for which they were arrested testified yesterday.

The disclosure came as tension soared in Marikana, with claims of widespread intimidation of miners intending to report for duty, as well as fresh allegations of police brutality against the arrested strikers.

Also yesterday, at least 1000 workers reassembled at Mari-kana's Wonderkop hill, where 34 striking miners were shot dead by police almost two weeks ago.

Alfonso Mofokeng, a miner from Lesotho, said: "We're aware some people have gone back to work. We need to come up with a plan to deal with them. By going to work they say the murders that took place here were in vain."

In the week leading up to the shooting, 10 people were killed by the striking workers, including two security guards who were set alight in their patrol vehicle, as well as two policemen dispatched to monitor the situation.

Testifying in the Ga-Rankuwa Magistrate's Court yesterday, investigating officer Gideon van Zyl said Lonmin management had made it clear that all arrested workers would not be re-employed.

When asked for comment last night, Lonmin spokesman Barnard Mokwena said the company would not interfere with court proceedings involving its employees.

''We will await the outcome of the court proceedings before delivering on appropriate action,'' he said.

The 259 miners appeared in court in connection with charges of public violence. Van Zyl is heading a team investigating the death of the 10 people killed earlier.

The news of the miners' imminent dismissal follows Lonmin's decision to hold back an ultimatum the company had issued for workers to return to work.

Lonmin last week heeded a request by President Jacob Zuma to allow the nation to observe a week of mourning.

But as the miners appeared in court yesterday allegations of police brutality piled up.

Of the 259 miners who have appeared in court, 198 have opened cases of assault against the police.

Moses Dlamini, spokesman for the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, said the assaults were alleged to have occurred in at least four North West police stations.

"We have registered 198 separate cases. These include cases of common assault and assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm," Dlamini said.

A source close to the investigation said the alleged assaults are believed to include repeated beatings with heavy objects, including batons.

Groups of up to 30 arrested strikers were allegedly packed into cells, where they would be pepper sprayed once the cells were locked, the source said.

Officers, armed with batons, would then allegedly move in and beat the prisoners.

Dlamini could not say which policemen would be charged. However, he said those found to have knowledge of the alleged attacks but did nothing to stop them would also be charged.

The assaults allegedly took place at Phokeng, Mogwase, Jericho and Bethanie police stations.

Dlamini said investigators were continuing to conduct interviews and the number of assault cases could rise. He said the injured had been taken to local hospitals for treatment.

"Most of the [alleged] assaults were carried out with batons and heavy objects. As well as being beaten, many were also [allegedly] punched and kicked," he said.

Dlamini said he could not comment on allegations that the slain miners were shot in the back.

"We do not yet have the post mortem results," he said.

National police spokesman Captain Dennis Adriao declined to comment on the alleged assaults or allegations that some miners were shot in the back.

"The assault allegations are being investigated by [the Independent Police Investigative Directorate]. We cannot comment on the shooting until the commission of inquiry is complete."

Jacob van Garderen of Lawyers for Human Rights said the torture claims were unacceptable.

"Unfortunately, this type of behaviour is not new. It is vital that these allegations are investigated with the same urgency given to the shooting," he said.

Lonmin's management yesterday said only 13% of employees had returned to work - citing intimidation. Over the weekend, 57% of workers reported for duty.

"There have been incidents of intimidation [of] bus drivers and workers, preventing them from coming to work," the mine said.

The company said its management and representatives of the striking workers met yesterday afternoon to continue with the discussions that started last week.

The meetings, facilitated by the SA Council of Churches, were ''constructive'' and the company had agreed to assist workers by facilitating meetings with other parties.

''Lonmin's management is committed to this process and its absolute focus in the coming days will be to reach a peace accord, under the auspices of the Department of Labour, which allows for a peaceful return to work and an environment in which the concerns of all stakeholders can be addressed,'' the company added. - Additional reporting by Sapa

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