- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 5, 2012

JOHANNESBURG — A clash this week at the Gold One International’s mine east of Johannesburg, reported by police and company CEO Neal Froneman, was the latest violence to hit South Africa’s mines in months of unrest.

South African police and security guards fired rubber bullets and tear gas Monday at fired gold miners who were attacking colleagues to block them from working, the mine owner said.

Police said four people were wounded at the mine that used to be partially owned by the president’s nephew.

Company spokesman Sven Lunsche said some 12,000 of the firm’s workers “continue to engage in an unlawful and unprotected strike” that began last week.

He said the strike involved an internal dispute between local union leaders and members of the National Union of Mineworkers, the country's largest union.

After apartheid ended in 1994, South Africa pressed to share the country’s vast mineral wealth with its impoverished black majority. But a small black elite has become billionaires off mining, while most South Africans continue to struggle against mounting unemployment, increasing poverty and a widening gap between rich and poor that makes the country one of the most unequal on Earth.

The mine where the violence took place Monday has previous business ties to relatives of Nelson Mandela and President Jacob Zuma. It was also the site where firebrand politician Julius Malema, an avowed enemy of Mr. Zuma‘s, pledged last week to make the nation’s mines ungovernable.

Police spark unrest

South Africa’s mining unrest reached a bloody climax on Aug. 16, when police shot 112 striking workers, killing 34 of them, at a platinum mine at Marikana, northwest of Johannesburg. The state violence was reminiscent of apartheid days and has seriously damaged the government’s image.

Outrage at the police killings was exacerbated by prosecutors, who last week charged some 270 miners arrested at the scene with the murders and attempted murders of their striking co-workers — people killed by police. The National Prosecuting Authority on Sunday withdrew the charges, which were brought under an apartheid-era law.

On Monday, 91 arrested miners were released, much to the joy of their ululating and singing family members and supporters. But there were tears for the many more who remained in custody.

The Independent Complaints Police Directorate has reported receiving complaints from more than 140 miners that they were beaten in custody by officers trying to get them to name the strikers who hacked to death two policemen, who were among 10 people killed in violence that led up to the shootings.

The directorate also is investigating police officers on 34 murder charges and 78 attempted murder charges in the shootings, although no officers have been suspended. A judicial inquiry is to report to the president by January.

Policy say they acted in self-defense. No officer was hurt during the Marikana shootings.

Also Monday, the Khulumani Support Group of some 80,000 survivors of human rights violations under apartheid filed an urgent appeal for a U.N. special investigator to assess what happened to the miners killed at Marikana, after reports that autopsies showed that many had been shot in the back.

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