Two leaders of the Kimberley Artisan Mine Workers (KAMW) were granted bail of R2000 each after being arrested for trespassing

SUPPORT: A miner makes his point outside the Kimberley Magistrates Court yesterday. Picture: Danie van der Lith

A GROUP of between 200 to 300 illegal miners marched to the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court yesterday, where two leaders of the Kimberley Artisanal Mine Workers (KAMW) were granted bail of R2 000 each after being arrested for trespassing.

More charges are likely to follow after the illegal miners and Kimberley Ekapa Mining Joint-Venture (KEM-JV) confirmed that both parties would be taking further legal action following violent clashes between protesters and mine security earlier this week.

KAMW chairperson, Lucky Seekoei, along with his co-accused, Tebogo Taku, was granted bail of R2 000 and released on condition that they do not enter Ekapa property and refrain from interfering with state witnesses.

However, these charges could be the first of many following the incident on Tuesday, which caused extensive damage to property and left several people hospitalised.

Apart from the charges of trespassing against Taku and Seekoei, spokesperson for KEM-JV, Gert Klopper, confirmed yesterday that the mining company had laid several charges against the protesters after their mass action caused significant injury and damage to property.

“A truck was attacked at Kenilworth on Tuesday,” Klopper said. “The windows were smashed with rocks, the tyres punctured with pickaxes and the diesel tank ruptured.

“A patrol vehicle was also pelted with bricks this morning (yesterday), resulting in significant damage and the injury of an employee.

“A security guardhouse was also torched during the night and fences have been cut on various of KEM-JV’s properties.

“Further cases have been opened following an attack on the truck and the patrol vehicle, resulting in charges of damage to property and attempted murder, as well as for damage to property for fences being cut in various areas of the mine. A case of arson has also been opened following the torching of a guardhouse.”

Following his release from custody to a hero’s welcome by the illegal miners yesterday afternoon, Seekoei addressed the hundreds of miners who were protesting at the Kimberley Police Station, before moving to the magistrate’s court for the bail application.

After thanking the protesters for their support, Seekoei was extremely critical of the police, whom he claimed were in cahoots with the mining company after spent cartridges from police-issued rubber bullets were apparently found on the scene of Tuesday’s shooting.

“It has become very clear that we can no longer trust the police,” he announced to the jubilant crowd. “We were granted bail but it has still not been made clear to us what charges we are facing.

“On Tuesday we were accused of inciting violence and just before we arrived at court we were told that we would be charged with attempted murder. Then, just before we entered the court for our bail application, we heard that we were being accused of trespassing.”

According to Seekoei, he and Taku were invited onto the KEM-JV premises in order to assist personnel in defusing the tense situation between members of KAMW and mine security.

“When we entered, the gate was open,” he said. “We were called in to talk to the people. We don’t know why we were charged but will await the court’s ruling. However, we are not going to allow ourselves to be intimidated.

“We know that there are officials from the police who are in the mining companies pockets and we have proof that the police supplied mine security with the rubber bullets used against us.

“They were very quick to open charges against us on Tuesday afternoon but we were not able to open charges against them. That is why we will be going back to the police station to make sure that these charges are opened today.”

Meanwhile, Klopper rubbished the miners’ claims, saying that he was unaware of the origin of the spent police-issued cartridge that was shown to the DFA by the miners.

“The rubber bullets used by security are sourced independently on a commercial basis and in line with the valid firearms licences of the company,” he said. “These differ significantly in appearance from those used by the police.”