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Police stand firm in Marikana

Nathi Mthethwa says authorities will concentrate on arresting those guilty of inciting violence.

Police minister Nathi Mthethwa and National Commissioner of Police Riah Phiyega at a press conference in Marikana on 14 May 2014. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

MARIKANA - Authorities will now concentrate on arresting those guilty of inciting violence in Marikana, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said on Wednesday.

The minister and National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega warned striking workers in the North West mining town that peace is non-negotiable.

The pair visited the volatile area, despite a warning from Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) President Joseph Mathunjwa against a police build-up.

Earlier on Wednesday, the union president said the deployment of police in Marikana is a recipe for disaster.

Mathunjwa's warning to Lonmin bosses and government came as the mining company confirmed some workers had started reporting for duty.

The Amcu leader said authorities had identified people inciting violence in the area and yesterday received information about miners encouraging others to attack those who reported for work.

Mthethwa said authorities have been informed about a plan to destabilise the mining area, more specifically Marikana.

He said the police are ready to act and in the next few hours, authorities will hunt down those responsible for violence in the area.

However, the minister couldn't say if any suspects have been detained for the killings at the weekend.

He said police must distinguish between protests by civilians and workers, and said criminal acts disguised as industrial action will not be tolerated.

Mthethwa also said mining companies have a responsibility to protect their employees.

Phiyega said authorities will make every effort to meet with Amcu leaders to address the violence on the platinum belt.

She responded to the increased cases of intimidation in the wake of a call by Lonmin platinum for mineworkers to abandon the strike and return to their posts.

Phiyega said authorities have met with Amcu in the past but have not done so since the strike started.

She said meeting with the union is crucial.

"Amcu is a very important stakeholder. It is our wish, our commitment and our intention to engage with them."

Phiyega said authorities have adjusted their plans to suit the situation and the current deployments are sufficient to maintain calm in the area.

Amcu's strike for a basic salary of R12,500 is now in its fourth month.

Four people, including three miners, have been killed in the past week in what is suspected to be strike-related violence.

'POLICE PRESENCE A REMINDER'

Marikana was the scene of a deadly August 2012 shooting by police in which 34 striking workers were gunned down in the area.

At the time, the standoff was described as the bloodiest shootout in post-apartheid South Africa.

Mathunjwa said increased police presence in Marikana reminded him of the deadly 2012 strike by rock drill operators.

He said Amcu members won't end their strike until their wage demands are met.

The Amcu leader said he's confident Lonmin miners won't return to work until a settlement is reached.

Non-unionised workers have spoken out about a climate of fear on the platinum belt and brutal attacks on workers who dare report for duty.

The Chamber of Mines earlier called on Amcu and Lonmin to honour their commitment to a peace accord and end the violence.

MSC CALLS FOR HELP FROM ZUMA

The Marikana Support Campaign (MSC) has called on President Jacob Zuma to reinstate a certain clause in the terms of reference for the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.

The campaign is holding a meeting at Wits University in Johannesburg with family representatives from those killed back in 2012.

The group says the removal of clause 1.5 will compromise the truth of the Marikana massacre.

Bishop Jo Seoka from the South African Council of Churches has called on mining bosses and government to listen to their call.

"The CEO of Lonmin, the chairman of Lonmin and shareholders must stand before the commission and tell their side of the story."

The campaign has given the president until Monday to respond to their request.