The company carried no knowledge of a scheduled meeting at the premiers’ office on Monday afternoon
PRIVATE mine security opened fire with rubber bullets and teargas yesterday to disperse a crowd of furious illegal miners as clashes between the Kimberley Artisanal Mineworkers (KAMW) and personnel of the Kimberley Ekapa Mining Joint Venture (KEM-JV) turned violent.
While both parties are pleading innocence, accusing the other of provocation and inciting violence, chaos erupted at the miners’ settlement along Samaria Road in Kimberley yesterday, when security personnel of the KEM-JV continued their efforts to reopen a barricaded dirt road which runs adjacent to the camp.
This saw a tense stand-off, which had started on Monday morning, escalate dramatically yesterday with security guards, in full riot gear, opening fire on the crowd with rubber bullets on several occasions, while the miners retaliated with rocks, stones and other projectiles.
“They (KEM-JV personnel) just arrived here this morning and started shooting at us as while we were still at our shacks,” said several of the furious miners.
“We did nothing to provoke this morning’s shooting and will not allow Ekapa to treat us like animals.”
Gunfire and veld fires broke out on several occasions through the course of the day, while miners continued to pile large obstacles in the road, making access completely impossible, and provoked the security staff by pelting rocks at them.
A representative of the informal miners, Elisa Louw, explained that while the KEM-JV staff maintained that they had been given written authorisation to reopen and use the road, residents of the settlement were yet to be presented with any such documentation.
This was only one of the group’s grievances yesterday, with Louw adding that what had really infuriated them was the fact that it appeared as if little effort was being made on the part of the KEM-JV to reach an amicable resolution to the ongoing impasse.
“It just feels as if we are being expected to give in and compromise, while Ekapa is making no attempt to work towards a fair and peaceful outcome,” she said. “We were supposed to meet at the premier’s office on Monday afternoon but they didn’t arrive.
“The least that Jahn Hohne can do is apologise to us for what happened the last time when his security shot at us.
“Last week, one of the zama zamas was kidnapped by security and driven out of town to make his own way back. He arrived at Samaria Road, took his things and left because of what happened. We are just waiting to get his statement to open a case with the police.
“All we want is to also be allowed to earn a living, but we are not allowed to do so.
“We just want to be treated fairly but we can’t even get an apology.”
The spokesperson for the KEM-JV, Gert Klopper, meanwhile emphasised that the mining company was unapologetic about its conduct, as it was the miners who were not abiding by the law.
He also stated that the company carried no knowledge of a scheduled meeting at the premiers’ office on Monday afternoon.
According to Klopper, officials of KEM-JV, escorted by security, reopened the haul road from the stadium dumps to Superstone plant when they came under attack from illegal miners.
“Security officials acted in self-defence until the SAPS arrived on the scene and used rubber bullets and tear gas,” he said.
“The illegal miners are by their own admission illegal,” he pointed out yesterday, adding that they had no right to interfere with the lawful activities of the KEM-JV.
“An apology will not be forthcoming, as the incident along the Boshof Road was instigated by the miners committing illegal actions in contravention of the eviction order granted against them.”
Klopper added that KEM-JV was not aware of any “kidnapping” incident. “The illegal miners are instigating violence in violation of a court order which they have contested unsuccessfully at all tiers of the judicial system.
“KEM-JV would like the rule of law to be restored so that it can continue to make an economic contribution to Kimberley and its people by executing its legal mandate to mine areas on which it has the rights without interference from criminal and illegal elements.”
Northern Cape police spokesperson, Captain Olebogeng Tawana, described the situation as calm and added that no arrests had been made.
The spokesperson for the premier’s office, Monwabisi Nkompela, said that the office would only be able to respond to media enquiries this morning.