TJ Strydom, Denise Williams and Sipho Masombuka
WHILE Julius Malema continued stirring tensions in the mining sector, two ministers moved to publicly reassure foreign investors.
Violence erupted yesterday at the Grootvlei mine in Springs – the venue of the dismissed ANC Youth League president's previous speech – as he visited his third mine in two weeks.
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said he would visit London next week to allay fears that Malema's so-called mining revolution would jeopardise investment into South Africa. And on the day that 162 of the miners arrested after the shooting at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine last month were released, Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said what had happened at Marikana was not a reflection of the business environment in the country.
Malema has been building his political comeback on the back of the unrest at Lonmin's mine that saw 34 illegally striking miners killed by police two weeks ago.
On the East Rand, four people were injured yesterday when security personnel at Gold One's Modder East mine fired rubber bullets at protesters. Malema visited the mine on Thursday where more than 1000 workers were dismissed two months ago for participating in an illegal strike.
"Our leaders have lost their way and have been co-opted by mine owners and fed profits. They don't care about you," he told workers.
Malema also made an appearance at Gold Fields' KDC Mine near Westonaria yesterday. The mine initially denied him access, but said it had decided to let him in as his car was met by a crowd who accompanied him onto the site.
Malema was fiery in denouncing mining companies and stirring further discontent with established trade unions.
"Leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers [NUM] should know that you can't act for workers without consulting them," he told strikers at the mine on the West Rand.
The NUM was quick to dismiss Malema's visit to the Gold Fields mine, with spokesman Lesiba Seshoka saying he was not invited. "He is on a charm offensive to promote his idea of nationalisition."
The union also said the violence at Gold One's mine should not be called a strike because the people involved were no longer employed by the mine.
A spokesman for the dismissed Grootvlei workers, Mahlomola Mohapi, who belongs to NUM rival the Professional Transport and Allied Workers' Union, said about 500 dismissed miners had gathered at the mine's entrance yesterday morning demanding to be reinstated.
After a confrontation with miners pitching up for work, security officials opened fire with rubber bullets. According to the police, four protesters were admitted to hospital and 18 arrested.
Additional reporting by Sapa