Violence returns to Lonmin mine

At least five bodies could be seen on the ground at Lonmin’s Marikina Mine.

Police open fire at protesting workers at the Lonmin mine in Marikana, North West on 16 August, 2012. Picture: Taurai Maduna/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Police on Thursday fired rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades at protesters at Lonmin's Marikina Mine.

At least five bodies could be seen on the ground at the site and they appeared to be lifeless.

It is understood some of the demonstrators fired live rounds at authorities and police retaliated.

Officials said they tried to negotiate and told protesters to hand over their weapons, but they refused.

It is difficult to tell what sparked the latest violence.

Police have now cordoned off the area.

Protesters moved several kilometers away and dozens of nyalas blocked the area to ensure demonstrators do not return.

Num vs ACMU

The National Union of Mineworkers (Num) remained firm that it is the majority union at platinum producer Lonmin.

Some 3,000 rock drill operators embarked on an illegal strike over pay on Friday.

The violence that ensued resulted in the death of 10 people, including two police officers.

Num claims its rival union, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (ACMU), instigated the strike by promising workers more money.

These claims then fueled suspicion that inter-union rivalry is at the heart of the violence.

Num said it is the majority union at Lonmin, even though its membership dropped due to retrenchments.

Secretary General Frans Baleni said AMCU was misleading miners.

He revealed Lonmin shop stewards and branch leaders were placed on a hit list, and at least one member was gunned down on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa said Lonmin management does not want to discuss wages, which will disappoint the workers.

He said he would plead with members to disperse peacefully.