Police fired rubber bullets and teargas at residents of Sondela, near Anglo American Platinum’s (Amplats) Rustenburg mines on Thursday morning (20/09/2012).
Residents reacted by blockading the road leading up to the mine the Jabula shaft of the Amplats mine.
They put burning tyres, rocks and other objects on the road to prevent the police gaining access into the informal settlement.
Hours later, residents began burning shops and stalls along the road.
The shops and stalls were already empty of business when residents began breaking into them and setting them alight.
Police monitored the situation from a distance, but did not intervene.
The leader of striking Amplats’ workers, Tebogo Lebeke, said they had been on strike since last Thursday, in demand of a monthly salary of R17,000. "We have met with management before and negotiations were expected to continue next week Thursday, but we received SMSs from the mines telling workers to return to work,” he said.
The SMSs sent to workers stated that conditions were conducive for workers to return to work.
"We are not going back to work until our demands have been met,” Lebeke said.
Amplats’ spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said the company would release a statement on its Rustenburg operations by 1pm on Thursday.
Amplats said on Wednesday night that it was safe to return to work and that it was ordering its employees to clock in for the night shift.
"The increase in police visibility and action has created an environment conducive for our employees to return to work and isolated incidents of intimidation and violence are being dealt with,” it said in a statement.
Amplats said those who did not return to work would be in violation of a court order, which declared the strike illegal last week.
"Anglo American Platinum has communicated to its employees the requirement to return to work by night shift on Thursday 20 September, failing which legal avenues will be pursued.” It said its Rustenburg operation was already under considerable economic pressure and any further delays would increase the risk to long-term viability. - Sapa