JOHANNESBURG – Striking miners killed one man by setting him on fire Thursday while another was fatally shot, apparently by police, in rekindled labor unrest in South Africa that saw police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.
The violence near an Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) mine has escalated since the company dismissed 12,000 striking miners on Friday. Dozens have been killed in violence in other strikes in South Africa since August.
One person died Thursday in a hospital after being hit by two rubber bullets likely fired by police trying to disperse striking miners, said Gaddafi Mdoda, a leader of the striking Amplats mineworkers. Another person died of his wounds after being set alight by striking workers, North West police spokesman Brig. Thulani Ngubane said.
"The situation remains tense," Ngubane said.
Police Capt. Dennis Adriao said 40 people have been arrested in violence at the Nkaneng informal settlement near Rustenburg.
The mineworkers have vowed to make the mines ungovernable and to make it impossible for the world's top platinum producer to hire new workers if their wage demands are not met. Evans Ramokga, a strike leader, said last week that the company would hire new workers only "over our dead bodies."
Police apparently were responding to the miners' attempt to stop operations at Amplats' Bathopele mine on Thursday, according to the South African Press Association, which reported that two taxis were set on fire. Amplats' operations in the platinum belt northwest of Johannesburg have been brought to standstill since most of its workers went on strike last month. Amplats calls the strike illegal.
South Africa has been under the grip of labor unrest since August, when platinum miners in Marikana staged a wildcat strike demanding higher pay. In a violent confrontation not seen since the end of apartheid in 1994, police shot and killed 34 striking miners and wounded scores more. That strike targeting Lonmin PLC mines ended with a hefty pay raise for the striking workers but it inspired copy-cat strikes that have since spread to gold and iron ore mines as well as the trucking industry. unresolved.