Workers at RBPlat’s Styldrift Mine in North West. File Picture: KATHERINE MUICK-MERE
Workers at RBPlat’s Styldrift Mine in North West. File Picture: KATHERINE MUICK-MERE

A person was shot dead near Royal Bafokeng Platinum’s (RBPlat’s) North Shaft on Wednesday night during a protest by about 100 people, including former employees of the company, as suspicions were aired that the shot was fired from within the crowd.

RBPlat said the protest originated from its decision to fire 14 employees in December after their involvement in unprotected strike action in 2017 as well as threats to employees and damaging property.

During the protest a conveyor belt was set alight and a guard house and gate were damaged, prompting mine security to fire rubber bullets and paint balls at the crowd to break up the protest, RBPlat said.

“During the course of the incident an individual within the crowd was shot and killed.

“Based on preliminary evidence, including video footage, it is believed that the shooting was from within the group of protesters. The deceased was not employed by RBPlat,” said the company. The police said they had started investigating into the incident.

Management of mining companies have said at various events they were aware that labour and social protests around their operations could flare up.

They admit their fear that these events could spiral out of control as they did near Lonmin’s Marikana operations, where 45 people died in 2012, with police killing 34 during a protest in August.

“RBPlat management has called on local community members to refrain from engaging in violence, threatening behaviour and damage to property. The company notes widespread protest action currently under way in the Rustenburg area unrelated to mining issues, and calls for calm by all parties,” the company said.

Media reports from Rustenburg said members of the community in the town had attacked drug dealers and their homes.

RBPlat said operations at Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine, where North Shaft is located, were unaffected by Wednesday’s events.