Striking South African miners defy Lonmin ultimatum
Three-quarters of striking workers refuse to return to platinum mine where 44 people killed by police last week
Around three-quarters of the workers at a South African platinum mine where 44 people were killed by police last week have refused to return to work despite an ultimatum by the mine’s owners.
About 3,000 striking rock-drillers were told by Lonmin, owner of the platinum mine in Marikana in North West province, to show up or potentially be sacked.
A Lonmin spokesperson told Reuters: “Attendance has started slowly but is now up to 27%. But it is unclear if the striking workers are returning.”
South African media reports suggested that many would continue to stay away. Miner Kaizer Madiba told the Times newspaper: “People have died already so we have nothing more to lose … we are going to continue fighting for what we believe is a legitimate fight for living wages. We would rather die like our comrades than back down.”
A rock-driller told the Mail & Guardian’s website: “It’s better to die than to work for that shit … I am not going to stop striking. We are going to protest until we get what we want. They have said nothing to us. Police can try and kill us but we won’t move.”
London-based Lonmin’s deadline was also condemned by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu). “It is too harsh of management to talk in this way,” said its treasurer, Jimmy Gama, describing the ultimatum as “very unfair”.
Thirty-four striking miners were gunned down at the mine on Thursday when they stormed a police line. Ten other people, included two police officers, died in violence earlier last week. The incident has stunned South Africans and provoked comparisons with the brutality of apartheid-era security crackdowns.
President Jacob Zuma has announced a week of mourning after the tragedy, with flags flying at half mast all over South Africa, and set up a ministerial task team and judicial commission of inquiry.
Two hundred and fifty-nine strikers arrested in connection with the protests will appear in the Rustenburg magistrates court on Monday facing charges including murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, public violence and malicious damage to property.
Shares in Lonmin, the world’s third biggest platinum producer, fell a further 5% on Monday.