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Workers to petition for murder charges against police after strike-related shooting

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, October 7, 2012 19:40 EDT
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A South African miner holds the portrait of a colleague, Mtshunquleni Qakamba, who died during clashes with police on October 4.
 
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Representatives of 12,000 fired Anglo American Platinum workers in South Africa will lay murder charges after a colleague was killed in clashes with police, a leader said.

“What we want to do tomorrow (Monday) is to open a case against the SAPS (South African Police Service),” said George Tyobela, a worker representative.

A man workers identified as Mtshunquleni Qakamba, 48, died when police fired rubber bullets and teargas to disperse a gathering on a hill on an Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) mine in the northwestern town of Rustenburg on Thursday.

“They shot against the people … until they killed one of our colleagues,” Tyobela told AFP.

The charges included “not only murder but also attempted murders”.

“Employees weren’t fighting, they were just sitting on the hill,” he said.

Authorities have not confirmed the man’s identity or cause of death, but colleagues said the rural Eastern Cape province native had worked at the mine’s Bleskop shaft.

An independent police watchdog has meanwhile taken over the investigation “as the incident appeared to have arisen from police action,” police said in a statement.

A day after the death Amplats, the world’s top platinum producer, formally dismissed 12,000 of 28,000 striking workers following disciplinary hearings.

Workers had downed tools on September 12 demanding wages of 16,070 rand ($1,800, 1,400 euros) — more than double what some earn.

On Saturday around 1,500 people gathered at the hill where the clashes happened to commemorate Qakamba.

Vowing to fight for higher wages, the worker representatives will meet with government mediators Monday about their demands, but not to discuss their sacking, Tyobeka said.

“Tomorrow we don’t want to mention the issue of dismissal. Dismissal is an issue of management,” he said.

Wildcat strikes have spread across South Africa’s mining sector as workers reject their conventional union structures.

Lonmin, the world’s third largest platinum producer, gave strikers pay rises of up to 22 percent in September after 46 people were killed in violence, including 34 shot by police in a single day, during six weeks of illegal work stoppages.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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