Riots kill 9 in South Africa

President Jacob Zuma

Violence caused by rival gangs has killed nine people in South Africa

Fighting between two rival unions, over members, at platinum mine in northern South Africa has led to the death of 9 people, the country’s police said on Tuesday.

Some of  the dead, from the violence which started on Friday, are miners, security guards and police officers; with some brutally murdered with knives, while at least two were burned to death.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), one of the most powerful labour organizations in the country, blamed a breakaway rival trade union for the chaos.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union denied it is responsible, but declined to comment further.

There was a heavy police presence at the Lonmin platinum mine in the North-West province, with armed vehicles on the streets and helicopters circling overhead.

“We continue to speak to the unions to appeal for calm, and to totally support the police and government in their efforts to ensure appropriate resources are deployed to protect life, which must be paramount,” said Ian Farmer, Lonmin’s chief executive, in a statement late on Monday.

Bernard Mokwene, a spokesman for the company, said Lonmin had yet to receive any official documents from the unions, detailing their grievances.

Local media has reported that the two unions are fighting over memberships, as each tries to gain the upper hand in negotiations.

There have been other violent incidents involving unions at platinum mines earlier this year.

Police are searching for suspects, some armed with traditional weapons such as long knives or spears.

Some suspects nabbed police officer’s weapons and made off with them, a spokesman said.

Officials said criminal elements might be involved in the chaos and have indicated the ringleaders could be from an informal settlement located near the mine.

South Africa sits atop about 80 per cent of the world’s known platinum reserves.

Prices for the precious metal have been in decline, with analysts noting the violence at the mine was coming at a particularly bad time for the mining companies.

The price of Lonmin shares has fallen on both the London and Johannesburg exchanges. Production at the mine is also at a reduced capacity following the violence.

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