Thirty eight protesters, who are members of a group called the Marikana Unemployed Youth Forum, were arrested on charges of public violence on Thursday. They had gathered outside Lonmin’s offices in Rustenberg on Thursday, after expecting a response from the mining company to their demands for jobs.
When Lonmin failed to meet with them, the protesters left to make their way home.
It was then that police appeared and arrested protesters after dispersing them with riot gear. Some of the women who were arrested said that police had beaten them.
Women Protesters who were arrested and beaten inside police cars during Women’s Month. Lonmin at it again!! pic.twitter.com/PzU5ymAOeJ
— Fighter Leigh (@LeighMathys) August 1, 2016
Lumka Nyati (34) was not assaulted by SAPS, but she was there when she saw police attacking women who had protested alongside her. They had gone to Lonmin’s offices in Rustenburg on Thursday, after being promised a meeting with the platinum mining company to discuss employment for young people in the community. When Lonmin failed to provide feedback to their demands, Nyati says the group turned and went back home.
“[It happened] as we were coming back home, then the police came and started shooting at us. We were just singing, but we didn’t damage anything. We ran off,” she said.
“The police chased us and then they arrested us. Some of them were beating the other girls. They were swearing at them and they were using their hands. Anywhere on their bodies, they would kick them, klap them. They were hitting them as they got into the police van, telling them to get in,” she continued.
Colonel Sabata Mogkwabone told the Mail & Guardian that the Marikana SAPS was unaware of any allegations regarding assault on women.
“We are not aware about allegations of assault. Those who allege that they were assaulted must open cases for investigation,” Colonel Mogkwabone said.
Nyati, however, says that some of the women wrote in their statements when they were arrested that they had been assaulted. Dennis Rakgomo, the lawyer representing the group and a member of the EFF’s legal team, says that protesters are meeting with the regional EFF to discuss how they will proceed.
“They have not yet filed a report at the police station. There is a plan to go forward. After getting feedback from the meetings we will see what the next step is,” Rakgomo said.
The docket states that allegations against protesters include an attempt to burn a bus and throwing stones at passing cars. After four days in jail, the protesters were released on Monday evening after posting bail. The group relied on the Rustenberg EFF structure to raise money for their bail, which was set at R500 per person.
Their court appearance was delayed following confusion around the police docket. Rakgomo says that ten people were wrongfully arrested and they are now considering filing a civil lawsuit against the police. It emerged on Monday that the ten detainees could not be linked to the protests and the charges against them were withdrawn, but Rakgomo says that they had been wrongfully forced to spend 4 days in jail for no reason.
Leigh Ann Mathys, the EFF’s national chairperson and a member of the Rustenberg regional structure, was there on Thursday night when protesters were released. The EFF became involved in the matter when members of the Marikana community contacted the local EFF branch for assistance.
“It’s disheartening and disgusting. It’s Women’s Month and it’s so close to the eve of the commemoration of the Marikana massacre,” said Mathys.
Both Mathys and Rakgomo expressed shock that Lonmin had called the SAPS on the protesting group.
“Lonmin can still make that same phone call and the police can still come out and react as they have despite what happened in 2012,” Mathys said, referring to the Marikana massacre.
Lonmin has neither confirmed nor denied calling the police. The company told the Mail & Guardian that the SAPS will only be called in if there if security for company decide it is necessary.
“Lonmin security will call SAPS if there is a risk to property or people. We’re not a policing service, we’re a platinum service. We don’t do policing,” Sue Vey, spokesperson for the mining company, told the Mail & Guardian.
Meanwhile, the IEC has 1723 stations in the Rustenburg area but has said in an interview with the SABC that those stations will be monitored as best as possible on election day to minimise any possible disruption.
The protesters who were released on Monday night will return to court on the 11 August.