21 injured, 61 arrested in Ogies protest

Date of publication: 
18 February 2010

Twenty-one people were injured and 61 were arrested in Ogies, Mpumalanga, on Thursday in protests against BHP Billiton – the second violent action targeting a mining company in the past two weeks, police said.

They included three police officials, who were injured on the shoulder, mouth and head when stones and bottles were thrown at them, said Captain Leonard Hlathi.

Hlathi said the police had to fire rubber bullets to disperse crowds burning tyres and barricading roads with bottles, dustbins and road traffic signs.

“Eighteen protesters were bruised from the rubber bullets. We have arrested 61 people for public violence,” he said, adding that all the main roads in the Phola township, in Ogies, were closed.

“They [the protesters] want to draw attention from BHP Billiton. They are claiming there were several meetings with BHP Billiton and they are claiming BHP Billiton is not employing people from Phola township,” said Hlathi.

BHP Billiton owns the Klipspruit coal mine in Ogies.

The mine’s spokesman Johnny Dladla said 94 percent of the people employed by the BHP Billiton’s Klipspruit colliery were from the Nkangala district.

“Of these, eight percent are from the local Ogies or Phola township,” said Dladla.

He said BHP Billiton remained open and committed to continue discussions with community leaders through the local Community Development Forum.

Last week, schooling was disrupted and the library set alight in the Mpumalanga town of Balfour in protests against the local Burnstone gold mine, which residents accused of not investing enough in infrastructure development.

Co-operative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka was visiting the Siyathemba township in Balfour on Thursday to check on the situation.

ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema has been in the news repeatedly lately for saying he believed mines should be nationalised to fund free education, to the ire of Mining Minister Susan Shabangu, who vowed that it would not happen in her lifetime. – Sapa