Rival unions clash at South African mine | Africa | DW | 18.02.2013
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Rival unions clash at South African mine

Guards at a mine in South Africa have fired rubber bullets during a power struggle between rival trade unions. The clash left 13 people injured and was reminiscent of an incident last year that claimed some 50 lives.

Police said the violence started when four shop stewards of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) tried to re-occupy a union office at Anglo American Platinum's Siphumelele mine in the Rustenburg region, northwest of Johannesburg.

Some 1,000 workers - thought to be local members of a new rival trade union, the Association for Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) - confronted the four.

"Some of the people were hacked with pangas (machetes) and sharp objects, while others were shot with security rubber bullets," said police spokesman Thulani Ngubane. The four ran for their lives.

Anglo American Platinum (Amplat) said nine of its mine employees were "injured" by rubber bullets fired by Amplat security personnel. Four of its security guards were also injured. It appealed for calm.

NUM condemns rivals

NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka described Monday's inter-union confrontation as "unacceptable."

"We are not going to close, we are not going to go underground. We remain the majority union there," he said.

Fatalities last year

Last year, more than 50 people were killed in labor strife, including 34 shot dead by police during a wildcat strike at the Marikana mine operated by the concern Lonmin. It was the single deadliest security incident since the end of Apartheid in 1994.

South Africa's government, which has close links with NUM, has since tried to reassure investors that the strife is not undermining its fragile economy.

Last month, South Africa was downgraded by the ratings agency Fitch from BBB+ to BBB. Amplats recently announced cost savings including plans to cut 14,000 jobs.

Layoff procedures have been put on hold pending talks, following an outcry from unions and the government over the global miner's restructuring move.

ipj/slk (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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