Lonmin activist shot dead in South Africa
Fears that violent clashes between rival unions fighting to represent miners in South Africa were sparked on the news that a senior member of South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was shot dead in the restive platinum belt town of Marikana.
Reuters reported that while the motive of the shooting was unknown, tensions in the mining sector of South Africa have been high. NUM has had tens of thousands of members in the platinum shafts poached by a rival group, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), in a turf war that killed dozens of people in 2012. Sporadic killings have occurred this year.
"He was killed last night. We don't know why at this stage, but there appears to be a resurgence of violence in the area," NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka told Reuters.
"We appeal for our members to remain calm while the police carry out their investigation," he said.
Police spokesman Thulani Ngubane confirmed a man was shot on the night of Oct. 17 but did not release his name and said the reason for the shooting was unknown.
"He was on his way to the informal settlement that is next to Lonmin. As he was about to pick up his girlfriend, four men opened fire at his vehicle. He got out of the car and he got hit by seven bullets and then died on the scene," Ngubane said.
Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey said the victim was the NUM chairperson at the Roland shaft at the company's Western Platinum mine.
"We cannot say if this is linked to the union rivalry or not," she said.
Lonmin's Marikana operations were at the epicenter of the union conflict in August of 2012 where police shot dead 34 striking miners. It was the bloodiest security incident in the country since the demise of apartheid.
Lonmin earlier this year recognized AMCU, known for its militancy, as the majority union at its operations and stripped bargaining rights and even office space from other unions including NUM, a key labor ally of the ruling ANC.