Tensions between striking miners at a platinum plant near Johannesburg, the police and mine owners Lonmin, increased on Wednesday when a court ruled the industrial action illegal.
The 3,000 rock drill operators must now choose whether to return to work or continue their wage dispute and face the sack.
The police and the military have continued their presence at the mine but the strikers claim not to have a quarrel with them.
“We work hard with the machines we use, but we cannot afford to send our kids to school. All we want is money. Even though they have sent the police here, there is no point, because we are not fighting against anybody. All we want is money,” said one miner.
But the wildcat pay strike which began last Friday has turned into a deadly standoff. Ten people have been killed in what has also become a tussle for power within the platinum industry between rival unions.
Striking miners want wages tripled
Aug 14 2012 17:40 Sapa
Last Updated: 16/08/2012 at 11:40. Prices are delayed by 15 minutes. Source: McGregor BFA
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Johannesburg – Striking miners vowed on Tuesday to stay at the top of a hill in Wonderkop, near Lonmin’s [JSE:LON] Marikana mine, until their pay was pushed up to R12 500 a month.
They claimed they were being paid R4 000 per month, and those living outside the hostel R5 000.”We want money. We have kids to take care of,” said one worker, Alfred Makhaya, from the Eastern Cape.
He had been working for Lonmin for over eight years and was being paid R4 000 a month. He was forced to leave the hostel to rent a room so he could have an extra R1 000.
“This money is too little, I am working hard and I’m being paid so little.”
He said if he was not going to be paid R12 500 per month, his children would end up being thieves, because he would be unable to pay for their education.
Another worker, Lichaba Pafkalasi from Lesotho, said the R12 500 would enable him to support his family. He claimed the mine’s staff shot at him at the weekend, killing two of his group.
They then decided to move to the mountain to discuss their next move. They claimed the mines sent the police to shoot them.
Earlier, about 500 men gathered on top of the mountain, armed with knobkerries and iron rods.
Local residents said an inyanga (herbalist) or sangoma (traditional healer) would perform a ritual on the mountain top and sprinkle the men with muti (traditional medicine) to “make them brave”.
Nine people – two police officers, two security guards, three protesters and two other men – have been killed during protests at the mine, which began on Friday.