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Amplats workers down tools after rival union clashes

Anglo American Platinum workers downed tools on Tuesday in protest at the shooting of colleagues by guards during a stand-off by rival unions, the latest outbreak of unrest at the crisis-hit firm.

The world’s top platinum producer confirmed that its operations in the northwestern mining towns of Rustenburg and Pilanesburg had ground to a halt owing to “an illegal work stoppage this morning.”

At least 13 people were wounded in gunfire and machete attacks at an Amplats’ Siphumelele mine on Monday after security guards battled to disperse a 1,000-strong mob that besieged a rival union’s office.

On Tuesday, nearly 2,000 workers from a smaller union gathered at a stadium near the Siphumelele shaft demanding the shut down of the offices of a rival union, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

They blamed NUM for Monday’s violence at the mine.

“We want the employer to remove NUM, they have protected them for too long, while they are busy threatening and killing our members,” said Gaddafi Mdoda, a workers’ representative told AFP.

“Workers are very angry about what happened yesterday,” he said.

Armed mine security guards and police patrolled the area around the stadium, where workers in the workers clad in red Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) t-shirts chanted slogans.

“What happened yesterday was a result of provocation by NUM members, they are killers. We won’t go back underground until their offices are removed from the mine,” said one of the workers Chris Mabuya.

Monday’s violence at the mine was sparked by the return of four shop stewards.

“We are a majority union now, they must accept that,” added Mabuya.

Amplats in a statement urged its employees to remain calm and to return to work.

Thirteen people, including four security guards were injured when mine guards fired rubber bullets on mob of rampaging workers that had besieged NUM offices.

Some of the policemen were hacked with pangas and sharp objects.

Operations at the world’s number one platinum producer were crippled by rolling strikes over wages that hit the country’s mining sector last year.

The dispute halted mining at some Amplats mines for months, forcing a slump in fourth quarter production.