JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Violence erupted on South Africa’s platinum belt on Sunday when members of the striking AMCU union attacked sports minister Fikile Mbalula as he campaigned in the area for the ruling ANC in May 7 elections, union officials and local media said.
SABC radio, the public broadcaster, said the minister had to be whisked away in a bulletproof car when AMCU members set upon him and ANC activists, pelting them with rocks, as they went door to door in Freedom Park, a shantytown northwest of Johannesburg.
Sydwell Dokolwana, the regional secretary for the National Union of Mineworkers, a key ANC ally and AMCU’s arch rival, told Reuters he was with the minister at the time and that several people were hurt and buildings were torched.
“There was a group of about 100 guys with AMCU shirts. We had to run for our lives,” he told Reuters.
Police could not be immediately reached for comment.
Tensions are high in the platinum towns as the AMCU continues a crippling three-month strike against the world’s top producers of the precious metal, Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin.
The AMCU/NUM rivalry adds to fuel to an already combustible social and political mix in the area.
AMCU emerged as the top union in the platinum shafts after poaching tens of thousands of NUM members in a vicious turf war the killed dozens of people and triggered a wave of violent wildcat strikes that year.
Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Andrew Roche