Put down your weapons and stop committing violence, or face the full might of the law, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe warned striking miners on Friday.
In an announcement made in Tshwane, following a meeting of security cluster ministers and other Cabinet members, he said government would no longer tolerate the violence, threats and intimidation taking place in the mining sector.
“The South African government has noted and is deeply concerned with the amount of violence, threats and intimidation that is taking place in our country, particularly in the mining industry.
“These acts… clearly undermine our government’s efforts of ensuring economic and security stability,” Radebe said.
Government recognised that if the current situation continued unabated, “it will make it even harder to overcome our challenges of low economic growth and high unemployment”.
“Our government will not tolerate these acts any further.”
He announced measures to be put in place to ensure the situation was brought under control.
These included that “illegal gatherings, the carrying of dangerous weapons, and incitement, as well as threats of violence against anyone in the affected areas, will be dealt with accordingly”.
Radebe said law enforcement agencies “will not hesitate to arrest those who have been found to have contravened the law”.
Government was making a “clarion call” on all South Africans to desist from such illegal acts.
Asked if he was declaring a state of emergency, Radebe responded: “No, but we want stability; we want to bring about normality in the mining sector in South Africa. We can no longer tolerate acts of intimidation, illegal gatherings, and the carrying of dangerous weapons.”
Those who wanted to go to work had to be allowed to do so without any intimidation.
Speaking at the briefing, State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele said the “key” issue was the deaths caused by dangerous weapons.
“What is key is… these dangerous weapons kill our citizens. They are not just decorative things, or traditional things, but they actually have killed our people.
“Carrying dangerous weapons and firearms [and] participating in illegal gatherings is not going to be tolerated by law enforcement officers,” he said.
Asked if the police would use live ammunition to enforce the law, Radebe responded: “The question of live ammunition — that’s an operational matter, so we will not answer that.”
He said the measures announced applied to affected mining areas only, and not the rest of the country.
Asked if the announcement was a warning to expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema — who has called on miners to stage a mass national strike — Radebe said the measures were not aimed at specific individuals.
“This statement… is not directed at any specific individual or individuals.”
It sought to ensure stability in the country.
He then added: “But all those who break the law, regardless of who they are, they will be dealt with the full might of the law. That’s the message we want to present today.”
Cwele told journalists: “No more incitement of violence will be tolerated.”
Asked if the army would be deployed to help police, Radebe, after noting that it was the police who were responsible for security in South Africa, said: “That will be an operational matter. Who they want to be reinforced with.”
The decision would be taken by the national commissioner.
He said law enforcement agencies “will not hesitate to arrest those who have been found to have contravened the law”.