As tensions run high in the strike-hit North West, police have fired rubber bullets at community members illegally protesting against blasting at a chrome mine in Mmaditlokwe informal settlement near Marikana.

Police say the protest is unrelated to the nearby ongoing platinum wage strike, but is linked to complaints against Tharisa mine. Community members have accused the mine of damaging their homes and affected their children’s health, and have blockaded roads with burning tyres and rubble in protest.

Unable to reason with the protestors who ignored demands to disperse, policemen resorted to the use of rubber bullets to disband the “unruly” crowd. People scattered as police began making arrests, including fourteen women and two men who will appear in the Marikana Magistrate’s Court to face charges of public violence.

Brigadier Thulane Ngubane has appealed to political parties to stop fuelling tensions in the area, saying “This country is not a banana republic. It’s a state with laws and those laws must be respected. We are going to have a zero tolerance approach to anyone who breaks the law. Economic Freedom Fighters leader [Julius Malema] said miners should intensify their strike. People should be cautious of the statements they make.”

Nevertheless, EFF spokesperson Mboyiseni Ndlozi remains unapologetic, saying “We don’t apologise for the statements we made while addressing the miners. We encourage the miners and the unions not to sell out. We are the only party that is encouraging the employees and employers to do what is right.”

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