Sep 20, 2012 / 7:38 am
Days after soldiers were deployed, South African President Jacob Zuma's office announced Thursday that he has ordered military forces to assist police trying to control labour unrest in the nation's crucial mining sector.
Despite resolution of the longest and bloodiest strike, two more deaths were reported.
Even as miners returned to work Thursday at the Lonmin PLC platinum mine in Marikana, where police killed 34 miners on Aug. 16, labour advocates said police killed two more people: a ruling party municipal councillor who died of injuries from a rubber bullet and a miner who was run over by an armoured car.
Zuma's office said he was invoking the Constitution to use the military to support police "in the prevention and combating of crime as well as the maintenance of law and order in the Marikana Area ... and other areas around the country where needed" until Jan. 31. The notice from the presidency referred to section 201 (2) of the Constitution, which states that "only the President, as head of the national executive, may authorize the employment of the defence force."
Last weekend some 1,000 soldiers were trucked into the "platinum belt" northwest of Johannesburg.
Thursday morning, police in two water cannon trucks and several armoured cars confronted striking Anglo American Platinum miners at a shantytown where residents set up barricades of rocks and burning tires and logs. Before long, the fires died down and most of the police pulled back. The people dispersed, leaving a herd of goats milling around the water cannons.
Police spokesman Dennis Adriao confirmed that police fired tear gas and a stun grenade on the illegal gathering near Sondela settlement. There were no arrests, he said.
The deaths at the two mines, both northwest of Johannesburg, bring the strike-related death toll to 47.
Lonmin on Tuesday resolved its five-week strike by agreeing to pay raises of 16 to 22 per cent.
The strike already has spread to several gold, platinum and chrome mines, damaging investor confidence in the country that produces 75 per cent of world platinum and is the No. 4 chrome producer and in the top 10 of gold producers.
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