Lonmin issues ultimatum to striking Marikana miners
PLATINUM producer Lonmin on Sunday ordered employees at its tragedy-hit Marikana mine to return to work or face dismissal, but workers vowed to stay on strike after 34 of their colleagues were killed by police.
The London-listed company issued a final ultimatum to workers to end their wildcat stayaway three days after the country’s worst police violence since the end of apartheid.
"The final ultimatum provides rock drill operators with a last opportunity to return to work or face possible dismissal," the company said in a statement. "Employees could therefore be dismissed if they fail to heed the final ultimatum."
But workers at the mine in the North West province said they would press on with wage demands and slammed a return to work as "an insult" to their colleagues who were gunned down after police failed to disperse strikers on Thursday.
"Expecting us to go back is like an insult. Many of our friends and colleagues are dead, then they expect us to resume work. Never," said worker Zachariah Mbewu, adding that no one would return to work as long as they were still in mourning. "Some are in prison and hospitals. Tomorrow we are going back to the mountain (protest site), not underground, unless management gives us what we want."
Fiery former ruling party youth leader Julius Malema fanned workers’ anger with a speech on Saturday attacking President Jacob Zuma, whom he wants voted out in the African National Congress’s year-end party elections.
"President Zuma decided over the massacre of our people, he must step down," Mr Malema, who was booted out of the ANC in April for fomenting divisions within its ranks, told a crowd.
"It has never happened before that so many people were killed in a single day and it became normal," he added.
The scene of Thursday’s bloodshed was deserted and police maintained a low profile on Sunday at the hostel where workers were going about their daily chores. But anger remained.
"We are waiting for a word from the management," said Fezile Magxaba, an underground supervisor at the mine. "Tomorrow we won’t return to work unless they listen to our demands of salary increases."
Churches in the impoverished informal informal settlements surrounding the mine held intimate services.
"Many people are still scared of being seen as forming gatherings, even coming to church," said a worshipper at the Independent Pentecostal Church who did not give his name. "We are mindful of the fact that our service may be regarded as a political or union gathering."
Relatives of the missing mineworkers milled outside the mine’s hospital to check if their loved one had been admitted there, had been arrested or were among the dead.
The crackdown on Thursday left 34 dead, 78 wounded and 259 detained and boosted the death toll to 44 after 10 already dead, including two police officers, in violence blamed on rivalry between unions.
The violence has seen the world’s third-largest platinum producer’s shares slump while rallying the platinum price.
Police have claimed self-defence, with Mr Zuma announcing an interministerial commission of inquiry on the top of investigations by the police and its independent watchdog body.
The mining minister has also said a task team will probe the platinum industry, which saw three workers beaten to death in another strike earlier this year.
Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane will lead the inquiry into the events at Marikana, the Presidency said on Sunday.
The other members of the inquiry are:
• North West Premier Thandi Modise;
• Minister of Mineral Resources Susan Shabangu;
• Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa;
• Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini;
• Minister of Co-operative Governance Richard Baloyi;
• Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant;
• Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula;
• Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi;
• Minister of State Security Siyabonga Cwele; and
• Minister of Home Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
"It will be a judicial commission of inquiry, and the president will announce the ... terms of reference in a few days," presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement.
The commission will visit Marikana on Monday, he said. "They will co-ordinate and lead all support to families and relatives, including the identification of family members, counselling and burials."
In addition, President Jacob Zuma declared the week starting Monday a period of mourning for the 44 people killed in violence at the mine.
From August 20 to 26, flags will fly at half-mast at all flag stations in South Africa and missions outside the country. On Thursday, August 23, memorial services will be held around the country.
"We must avoid finger-pointing and recrimination," the Presidency said. "We must unite against violence from whatever quarter. We must reaffirm our belief in peace, stability and order and in building a caring society free of crime and violence."
With Sapa, AFP
More in this section
- Amcu leader says union will ‘bring economy to standstill’
- Business as usual at all operations, says Amplats
- Pan African looks to offset output drop at mine
- Spot gold’s sixth fall in a row weighs on struggling miners
- Workers ‘divided’ over how to tackle Amplats’ bid to cut thousands of jobs
- Boardroom coup sees former BP boss take chair at Glencore Xstrata