Nearly 100 foreign business owners have been displaced after their shops were looted and vandalised during a miner strike at the Impala mine Phokeng, North West police said on Sunday.”
“Approximately 32 shops were looted, belonging mostly to foreign nationals in close proximity to Freemanville, close to Impala mine,” said police spokesman Brigadier Thulani Ngubane in a statement.
“The owners are now staying with friends and relatives in Ziniaville, Rustenburg,” he said.
Numerous cases have been opened with charges ranging from malicious damage to property to theft.
“Close to 130 suspects have been arrested on numerous counts including illegal gathering and they have spent the weekend in Phokeng holding cells,” he said. Those under arrest were expected to appear in the Phokeng Magistrate’s Court on Monday.
Ngubane said not all business owners who had been affected had opened cases.
He said the situation at the Impala mine and Freedom Park was calm on Sunday afternoon but police would remain on high alert.
Local businesses belonging to foreigners in Freedom Park were looted on Thursday and Friday, said Ngubane.
He denied that the attacks were xenophobic, and said the violence had been targeted at businesses, rather than the foreigners who have a monopoly on shops in the area.
On Saturday, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) urged strikers to return to work.
“The NUM is committed to a peaceful resolution at (Impala Platinum) Implats and appeals to all its members and workers in general to return to the operations next week when their issues are being addressed,” spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said.
The protests began in Phokeng on Thursday, with mineworkers apparently intimidating and assaulting people trying to get to and from work in the township outside Rustenburg.
They barricaded roads heading towards Freedom Park and threw stones at cars and looted shops. The crowd also torched a satellite police station in Freedom Park.
Seshoka said the union met with Implats management on Friday night in an attempt to resolve the impasse in Rustenburg.
Implats has already agreed to re-employ 17,200 workers who were dismissed for striking illegally.
The NUM and Implats have yet to discuss the disparities in the bonuses given to miners, excluding the rockdrill operators, and issues of re-instatement.
The union said that if Implats failed to meet its commitments when all workers returned to work, it would call a general strike at the company’s operations.
The NUM appealed to its members to disregard advice from anti-revolutionary forces in and around Rustenburg, Seshoka said.
“The NUM strongly condemns the violent behaviour demonstrated by criminal elements taking advantage of the volatile situation and appeals for calm as well as to the law enforcement agencies to make decisive intervention whenever violence raises its ugly head,” he said. – Sapa