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S. African police accused of failing to curb violence during mining strike

JOHANNESBURG, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) on Thursday defuted a claim by police and the government that mining violence has been brought under control.

"The strike by AMCU (the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union) in the platinum mines is violent, even though the police claim to be monitoring the situation there," said Solly Phetoe, COSATU North West Provincial secretary.

About 80,000 workers downed tools two weeks ago at three major platinum mines -- the Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin, demanding pay increases, which the companies say are "unaffordable and unrealistic".

There have been reports that non-striking workers were intimidated and even attacked. But Minister of Mineral Resources Susan Shabangu said on Tuesday that the government has intervened boldly and decisively to provide leadership and restore stability in the mining sector.

"I can confidently declare that we have restored the rule of law, peace and stability in this industry," Shabangu told delegates attending the Investing in Africa Mining Indaba taking place in Cape Town.

But Phetoe defuted the claim, saying, "The violence in the mines, in particular at Impala, has been there since the start of illegal actions in the mine."

"The police have been there and they are protecting those who are acting against the law, as instructed by mine bosses."

Phetoe said the car of one worker was burned just because she wanted to disassociate herself from the striking union and so far no one has been arrested for this.

"If, as the police are reporting, everything is under control, why are workers attacked, why has management laid workers off? We call on the police to do their work and make sure that everybody respects the Peace Accord and that the structures are formed to deal with crime in the mines."

Organized labour, mining companies and the government signed the Peace Accord which refrains unions from taking industrial action in two years. But AMCU, which is behind the new round of labour unrest, refused to sign the accord.

Phetoe said the violence linked with the labour unrest could have been prevented if proper preventative intervention was put in place while there was still time to do it.

"COSATU has noted that the Dangerous Weapons Act has been passed in the previous month but striking workers are still carrying those weapons which are described as dangerous and so far no arrest has been made in terms of that act," he said.

COSATU calls on the South African Police Service to act without fear or favour to combat all the acts of violence and crime which are taking place in the mining area and arrest any person who is found in contravention of any act of the republic, Phetoe said.

"We call for peaceful action by workers when demanding better wages and better conditions," he said.

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