MARIKANA, South Africa (AP) — As South Africa’s mining strike threatened to spread, striking miners charged that South African police dragged an injured colleague from his hospital bed and killed him.
The allegation adds to accusations that police have used excessive violence against the strikers at the Lonmin Marikana platinum mine, following the Aug. 16 police shootings in which 34 strikers were killed.
Some protesters Wednesday waved a photograph of a young man they named as Noki M. Mgcineni. They said Mgcineni was shot in the foot on Aug. 16 and was taken to the Andrew Saffy hospital, which is owned by Lonmin.
“Police then went to the hospital and dragged him away. They beat him up and they killed him. We found him in the mortuary,” Xolani Mzuzu, a striking miner, told The Associated Press.
He said several people were waving the same photo. “We consider him a hero, like Chris Hani,” said Mzuzu, referring to a murdered anti-apartheid activist.
The case of Mgcineni adds to allegations that police shot and killed peaceful miners.
Hundreds of striking Lonmin miners, supported by ululating women, gathered Wednesday near the spot where the deadly police shooting took place. The striking miners then marched to the nearby Karee mine, which is also owned by Lonmin, and demanded that all workers join the strike for higher wages or face violence and even death.
The striking mineworkers gave working colleagues a deadline of 1 p.m. to leave Karee mine or get killed.
“After 1 we don’t want to see anybody in the shaft. Those who come to work tomorrow we will kill them,” said one striker who refused to give his name. Another man shouted, “There will be more blood if we do not get 12,500 rand.”
The strikers said all they want is a monthly minimum wage of R12,500 ($1,560).
A delegation of seven young strikers was allowed to meet with mine managers. They were led past the phalanx of six police armored cars and a water cannon truck to the barbed wire gate of Karee Mine. Behind the barbed wire the Karee mine’s two white mine managers, flanked by an armed security guard, spoke to the delegation of strikers.
The line of police armored personnel carriers stood between the green-roofed Karee mine complex and the throng of singing, dancing strikers and their supporters. Police helicopters hovered overhead. March organizers got people to sit down peacefully. Some waved tree branches. People in the front of the solid line of strikers held logs to keep people from surging forward. Armed police in riot gear with helmets and visors looked on.
The manager of the Karee mine shaft, Jan Thirion, said: “The delegation from the strikers told me that if I didn’t get all the workers out of the shaft by 1 p.m. they would burn down the shaft.” Workers left the mine and walked to the nearby mountain, where the protests started.
The hundreds of marchers had been joined along the march routes by hundreds more people. The miners said they went to Karee Mine to stop people from working. As they walked, the strikers were dancing, stamping their feet and kicking up dust. Unlike previous protests, the miners carried only sticks and were not armed with spears and machetes that they had brandished in previous protests.
The London-registered Lonmin PLC mine has warned that the strike that began Aug. 10 could cost 40,000 jobs if it continues. The mine remains shut down with fewer than 5 percent of miners turning up for work.
Two Methodist ministers went to the demonstration Wednesday to try to avert violence. The Rev. Paul Verryn and Rev. Dan Twala negotiated with police to get permission for the delegation of strikers to go to the gates of Karee mine and to speak to the mine’s managers.
“Our intervention helped a lot,” said Twala. He said he felt their interventions could help avoid tragedies like the Marikana shootings. “I think in future if we could immediately act rather than wait for people to die.”
“We as a church support these people and talk to these people,” said Twala. “They need to take time for negotiations and people here should seek peaceful measures.”