RUSTENBURG – Moments after they left the open field they had occupied since morning, several police Nyalas and a private security company truck took up position in a street near the Andrew Saffy Memorial Hospital.
As the protesters approached, police barricaded the hospital’s entrance with four vehicles. A police helicopter hovered overhead.
By 4pm, there was a tense standoff.
The protesters were carrying pangas, knobkerries, golf clubs, arrows and spears.
One of their leaders, Loyiso Mtsheketshe, said they wanted to instruct the hospital to stop discharging injured miners into police custody.
A protester said they also wanted to convey their concerns to the hospital about its role in the ongoing strike.
Police fired on protesting mineworkers on a hill near Lonmin’s Marikana mine last month, killing 34 people and wounding 78. Another 260 were arrested at the scene, and 10 more upon their discharge from hospital.
The protesters claimed the police instructed hospitals to tell them when the wounded mineworkers were being discharged, and arrested them then –some even before they left the hospital premises.
On Tuesday morning, the striking Lonmin mineworkers flocked from all directions to an open space in Marikana for the beginning of another day of protest in demand of a wage increase.
They brought umbrellas with them to shield them from the scorching Rustenburg sun.
Media crews, many of them international, had set up camp there and observed the crowd.
There were also armed police in the area, with four police Nyalas parked at the entrance to a shaft at the nearby Karee mine.