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Weapons seized at Lonmin hostels

Police raided hostels ahead of Friday's anniversary of the Marikana tragedy last year.

FILE: Protesters from Lonmin's Marikana Mine, carried weapons while demonstrating against poor wages in August 2012. Picture: Taurai Maduna/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Police on Tuesday confiscated several home-made weapons at two of Lonmin's hostels in the North West.

Friday will mark the one-year anniversary of the day 34 were shot dead and 78 wounded when police opened fire on striking miners at Lonmin's Marikana mine.

After receiving several requests for gatherings in the area and in a move to ensure the anniversary will be peaceful, police moved into the hostels, seizing knobkerries, assegais and rudimentary iron objects.

Workers have asked the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), their legal representative at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, Dali Mpofu, and the South African Council of Churches (SACC) to help them organise a large scale event on Friday to pay tribute to slain colleagues.

Mpofu said: "The survivors delegated members of the committee to meet with Lonmin management to convey their demand that Friday be declared as a non-working day."

He added that the company needs to show where its priorities lie.

"We await their positive response that will assist in illustrating that the company is willing to put people before profit."

SHOP STEWARD MURDERED

Meanwhile, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa visited the mine on Tuesday to send his condolences to the family of the latest murder victim in the area.

A female shop steward affiliated to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was gunned down on Monday in yet another apparently union-related attack.

Police are still hunting for those responsible.

Mthethwa said as the area remains volatile, police will do everything in their power to make sure the killers are brought to book.

"Police have been on the ground. During and after Marikana, people have died here and continue to die. [The police] continue to do their work and arrest those who are perpetrators."

It is still unclear who is responsible for the murder or how a firearm was brought onto the premises without being detected by security.

MURDER BLAMED ON UNION RIVALRIES

The platinum belt has been marred by violence in recent months. There has been an intense rivalry between the NUM and Amcu since last year, chiefly over majority recognition at Lonmin mines.

The NUM used to be the majority union at Lonmin, but Amcu now represents about 70 percent of the employees.

The NUM says it believes that a female shop steward was gunned down for recruiting members at the volatile Marikana platinum mine.

While police are still searching for those responsible, the NUM's Lesiba Seshoka said the woman was targeted in a union-related incident.

"This woman was part of a NUM mobilisation team that went to Marikana seven weeks ago to mobilise workers back to the NUM. So clearly she's been targeted."

Speaking to Talk Radio 702's John Robbie on Tuesday morning, the NUM's General Secretary Frans Baleni said the union will wait for the outcome of the police investigation.

"What we know is that the lady was part of our recruitment team who were subjected to intimidation during the recruitment process.

"We are extremely angry that no arrests have been made. Criminals are out there and continue to murder and kill innocent workers."

Baleni added the NUM has received an indication that the suspects are known.

"We are told the suspect in the latest murder is the same as in the other murders. The police, the justice system and the Marikana Commission have failed us."

Also speaking to John Robbie, Amcu's President Joseph Mathunjwa claimed the murder was the work of criminals.

"I wouldn't say that this is tension between Amcu and the NUM. The emphasis should be on criminality. I think the police should step their game up. How can people be killed in cold blood without anyone being arrested?"

Mathunjwa said the murder is not acceptable and conveyed his condolences to the woman's friends, the community and the NUM.

"We condemn this in the strongest terms."

Both sides said they wouldn't promote violence.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mathunjwa said he wanted to spread a message of peace during the rally and has therefore invited the NUM leadership to join him.

Mathunjwa emphasised that it isn't an Amcu event, directly inviting the NUM's Senzeni Zokwana to attend.

"Join me in Marikana to preach peace and to demonstrate that the workers' unity is a strength."

Thousands of miners are expected to gather at the Marikana koppie on Friday.

The company is holding a minute of silence each day this week to commemorate their colleagues who were killed during the violence.