Dismay as cops withdraw cases against Tormin managers

| Barbara Maregele
While charges have been dropped against three Tormin managers, these workers at the mine will have to appear in court in Lutzville in January. Photo by Barbara Maregele.

Police cases against three Tormin mine managers, one of whom was accused of driving into and knocking over a mineworker during a strike, have all been withdrawn.

About 200 Tormin employees went on strike on September 4 over wages and working hours. Several were arrested after clashes with police and mine security guards, and ten miners and community leaders are to appear in court in January on charges of public violence.

But charges against three mine managers have been withdrawn.

One charge – discharging a firearm in a public place – relates to accusations that during the strike Tormin’s general manager instructed two private security guards to fire at a gyrocopter flying over the mine.

Two shots were fired, but missed. No one was injured.

Police spokesperson Frederick van Wyk said the docket was sent to the state prosecutor and the case withdrawn October 30 due to insufficient evidence. “No complaint was ever received from the person who flew over the area and no proof of any shooting could be found,” he said.

But the Tormin employee who reported the incident said was not contacted by police.

Although police took her statement, the employee said no one told her what happened to the case. “I’m still waiting to hear from the police,” she said. Charges against an engineering supervisor and a foreman were also withdrawn, Van Wyk said.

The supervisor was charged with reckless and negligent driving after one of the miners, Isac Luveve, was knocked down by a vehicle on September 10, during the strike. Luveve was treated for minor injuries in hospital.

The foreman was accused of using a loader from the mine to throw a burning tyre onto a vehicle during the strike.

Abubakah Fredericks, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) provincial organiser, said the justice system had failed the workers. “It’s very disappointing to see how the legal system works for some people. How can cases be withdrawn that easily? Especially the case that happened on September 4. We have video footage of the incident. The police were there and did nothing at the time,” he said.

Fredericks also said that 25 workers suspended after the strike on charges including “participating in actions detrimental to the interests of the employer” and “badmouthing the company”, had been asked to sign new contracts and told not to join the NUM.

Fredericks said the new contract meant workers would work fewer hours. If they agreed not to join the union, they would receive an 8% salary increase at the end of the year, he said.

Tormin spokesperson Anne Dunn said the company would not comment on the allegations or respond to other questions.

This article was based on a joint investigation by amaBhungane and GroundUp. It is also published in today’s Mail & Guardian.

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