- Written by Nobuhle Simelane
- BBC News, Johannesburg
Workers at a South African mine have begun to emerge again after being held underground for three days in what police call a hostage situation.
Police said hostage takers armed with weapons such as clubs and mining tools detained more than 500 miners at the Gold One mine.
As workers began to show up on Wednesday, one of them told the BBC that he had to be “forced out”.
On Sunday, the miners were caught up in a dispute between two trade unions.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said “rioters” had detained its members against their will.
But the Mineworkers’ Association and a rival construction union denied they were trapping workers at the mine near Johannesburg. Amco insisted the miners were there willingly and were staging a “sit-in” protest.
More than 100 workers re-emerged from the mine on Wednesday morning. One worker, who requested to remain anonymous, told the BBC: “I had to go out because I was worried about my health.”
Lwazi said he had some sympathy for Amco, which has been fighting for legal recognition of the mine for about five months. NUM currently has a “closed shop” agreement with the Gold One mine, meaning it is the only union allowed to represent workers there.
“Although I agree with the fight to allow another union to organize itself in the mine, I cannot say that I support the way they did,” Luazi said.
The workers’ families gathered outside the mine on Wednesday, waiting for their loved ones to come out.
One woman told the BBC that she had been camped out since Monday morning, after her husband failed to return from his shift the night before.
“I’m hurting. I don’t know when my husband will come back. He’s not feeling well… He has tuberculosis.
“My husband is the breadwinner,” she said. “I’m even afraid to go home because I won’t be able to answer my children’s questions.”
Police spokeswoman Brenda Modiri said officers were questioning the miners as they left the mine.
She said, “Those we interviewed told us that they were being held against their will. They told us about 15 hostage takers. We cannot say to which union the hostage takers belong.”
Management at the mine echoed police and NUM assessments that the miners were being held hostage.
Amcu has accused Gold One bosses of colluding with NUM, an allegation the mine denies.
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