South African police used tear gas and rubber bullets when they moved into miners’ hostels in Marikana on Saturday to seize weapons.
Hundreds of miners had to flee as the dawn raid swept up machetes, spears and other weapons, although no firearms were found. Bonfires were made of the traditional clubs carried by many South African men.
Hundreds of police were deployed for the operation, and people reported family homes being ransacked in front of sleepy-eyed women and children.
The raid came a day after miners at Lonmin, who have been striking for five weeks for better pay, rejected the company’s latest offer. They are also presenting a challenge to the ruling ANC that has an affiliated union and has many senior mining members.
Just weeks ago the government ordered police to use force in the mining region, during which 45 people died. It has reiterated that it would not hesitate to use the army if needed.