Police blocked expelled youth league leader of the country's leading African National Congress (ANC) from addressing about 3,000 strikers at a stadium near the Marikana mine in South Africa after they tried to march despite a government-ordered clampdown to halt illegal protests.
Monday’s development came as unions in South Africa began their national congress where the strike at the Lonmin PLC's platinum mine is expected to top the agenda.
Police vehicles and a helicopter hovering above the politician's car drove Malema out of the town. Earlier armed soldiers joined police in armoured cars as they stood guard at Lonmin.
"People thought that Malema was being arrested and started throwing stones at the police cars." She said that although most people had gone home the situation was still very tense and that the police were on high alert.
Malema was due to address miners that were angry at a police crackdown on Saturday during which rubber bullets and tear gas were fired at a shantytown in Marikana, where officers killed 34 miners on August 16.
On Sunday, police persuaded hundreds of strikers at another mine, run by the Anglo American company, to halt an illegal protest without violence.
The presence of 1,000 soldiers brought into the "platinum belt", 100km northwest of Johannesburg, has escalated tensions over union rivalries and higher pay demands that have stopped work at one gold and six platinum mines.
Mutasa, reporting from the mine on Sunday, said the police went out on foot, cocked their guns, then got back in their vehicles and seemingly drove away.
"The miners on the road here are defying government orders not to assemble and they are quite defiant now. They are saying that "if the police come back, there will be war".
Elsewhere in the North West region, 42 suspects were arrested for public violence after "illegally gathering", at the Robega Village, near the Rasimone North mine shaft.
Zuma condemns strikes
Meanwhile, at the gathering of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the major talking point for delegates is the crisis that has gripped the country's mining sector for the past five weeks.
There has also been great criticism of the union movement, COSATU and the ANC. The striking miners have accused union leaders of being too close to politicians.
The ongoing strikes are continuing to damage South Africa's economy and are especially critical to the mining sector.
Tens of thousands of miners remain on strike, and many are critical of the close ties between the main labour unions and the ruling ANC party.
The country's president, Jacob Zuma, addressed the union federation conference which is also an alliance partner to the leading ANC party.
He called for a speedy resolution to the mining strikes and said that it threatened to push the country into recession. He said the strikes had cost South Africa close to $563m (4.5bn rand) in lost gold and platinum production this year and had subtracted nearly $388m (3.1bn rand) from the national treasury.
He also condemned the violence that has marked the ongoing strikes. He said that violence cannot become a culture of South African labour relations.
He blamed poor living and working conditions of miners on the apartheid past and the failures of mining companies to honor a charter to improve the lives of miners.
He said mining companies are required to improve the housing and living conditions of workers and also to invest in skills development, racial equity in employment and ownership as well as local community development.
Meanwhile local news wire, SAPA, reported that negotiators for striking Lonmin workers were confident that a deal was in sight to end a six-week strike at the mine in Marikana.
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|William A. Cook|