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RUSTENBURG: South African police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades in clashes with Anglo American Platinum miners, as a deadline passed for 12,000 sacked workers to reclaim their jobs.
Thousands of miners defied an ultimatum to return to work by 7am, fighting running battles with police, blocking roads and apparently setting fire to a power sub-station at the mine in northwestern Rustenburg. Many others also failed to clock in due to intimidation from colleagues, unions said.
“Police used teargas, stun grenades as well as rubber bullets,” to disperse the strikers, police spokesman Dennis Adriao said.
Hours later water cannons, more tear gas and rubber bullets were being fired to drive away a fresh gathering of the workers in on-and-off clashes that broke out across the vast mine compound.
Adriao said the workers had blocked fire engines from the sub-station which was set alight in a pre-dawn attack. The Amplats workers were sacked earlier this month for going on an illegal strike.
Last week, the main National Union of Mine-workers (NUM) and two other like-minded unions secured a deal for the workers to be rehired. Amplats was unable to give figures for the number of workers who had returned, but it was clear that a sizable number of workers refused to go back to work until their pay demands are met.
“We are six weeks on strike, we can’t go back to work empty-handed,” workers representative Siphamandla Makhanya said. Police said the Amplats power sub-station was set ablaze around 0200 GMT and hundreds of workers tried to barricade the fire fighters from extinguishing. AFP