SA soldiers to be sent to support police at mines
THE GROWING unrest in South Africa’s mining sector has prompted the government to officially make the defence forces available for domestic duty.
A statement released by the presidency on Thursday said soldiers would be deployed to support the police “in the prevention and combating of crime as well as the maintenance of law and order in the Marikana area, North West province and other areas around the country where needed”.
Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said that while the military would support police, “the primary function would remain in the hands of the police”. The length of the deployment was “based on the pattern of crime incidents in the festive season period”.
The decision has come as a shock to a nation that had hoped the deployment of military personnel to quell unrest and keep the peace was a tactic consigned to the apartheid era.
However, wildcat strikes have spread across the mining sector in the weeks since 34 miners at the Lonmin mine in the North West province were shot dead by police on August 16 last during a confrontation with heavily armed officers.
Forty-six people have died in the violence and at least four mines have had to shut down due to the intimidation of workers by their striking colleagues.
Following a new R11,000 (€1,025) wage agreement between the striking miners and management at the Lonmin platinum mine on Wednesday, workers at the Kopanang gold mine, which employs 5,000 staff, also downed tools in search of more pay.
Elsewhere justice minister Jeff Radebe said yesterday that an inquiry into the deaths of the people who died in Marikana would start on October 1st.