Temperature rises at Amplats, as Lonmin workers report for duty
THOUSANDS of miners at Lonmin’s Marikana operations returned to work on Thursday, ending a six-week strike in which 46 people died as nearby mines faced strikes by workers demanding similar raises.
Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at striking workers from Anglo American Platinum’s (Amplats). Residents reacted by barricading the road, leading up to the Jabula shaft with burning tyres and rocks.
Amplats, the world’s biggest platinum producer, is threatening legal action if the wildcat strikers do not return to work on Thursday.
"We’ll buy 20 litres of petrol and if police get violent, we’ll make petrol bombs and throw them at them," said Lawrence Mudise, an Amplats rock driller, holding up a sign demanding R16,700 in monthly pay.
"We’ll not go to work until we get what we want. Our kids have been shot at, our families have been terrorised and brutalised, but we are not going back to work," said one miner, who did not wish to be named.
Amplats said disruptions at its mine posed a threat to the site’s future, as the "operations are already under considerable economic pressure".
"Any further delays in returning to work will only increase the risk to the long-term viability of these mines," it said.
As the return to work began in earnest at Lonmin’s Marikana, workers shouted "We are reporting for work."
The miners were in jubilant mood after securing wage rises of up to 22%.
"I feel very happy that I can go back to work now," said Nqukwe Sabulelo, a rock driller at the mine, 100km northwest of Johannesburg. "I’m going to live well now."
South African National Defence Force personnel deployed to the Marikana area will remain in the area until the end of January, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.
The president has to notify Parliament within seven days of ordering a deployment of the SANDF.
The soldiers were deployed to the area to assist police a week ago.
Some 15,000 miners at the KDC West operation of Gold Fields, the world’s fourth largest bullion producer, are continuing their illegal strike.
Gold Fields said this week it would not entertain demands for a minimum wage of R12,500 despite losing 1,400 ounces a day — close to 15% of group production.
Economists say the precedent set by Lonmin could spread through an economy already saddled with globally uncompetitive labour costs, stoking inflation and curbing the central bank’s ability to cut interest rates to boost sputtering growth.
Reuters, with Sapa and Paul Vecchiatto
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