Marikana Mine, South Africa — 11 September 2012 – Around 10,000 striking South African platinum miners marched from one Lonmin mine shaft to another yesterday, threatening to kill strike breakers, as another illegal stoppage hit Gold Fields, the world’s fourth biggest gold miner.
Reuters reports that wage talks to end the month-long Lonmin strike, which erupted in deadly violence last month, failed to start as scheduled. The independent labour mediator said it could only take part in the process if workers returned to work, but the vast majority stayed away.
The column of marching strikers, which swelled through the day, filled a two-lane highway and stretched for over a mile, watched by a heavily-armed escort of riot police. Many of the marchers were armed with sticks, spears and machetes.
“We are looking for the guys working. If we find them, we have to kill them,” said Umpho, a 23-year-old stick-wielding rock driller who declined to give his surname.
Growing labour unrest is challenging the ruling African National Congress’s claim to be a champion of workers’ interests, even as it tries to promote stable growth.
The unrest culminated in mid-August in violent clashes with police in which 44 people were killed at Lonmin’s Marikana mine, 100 km northwest of Johannesburg. 34 were strikers shot by police officers.
Police have said they opened fire in self-defence but fresh testimony that officers shot men who were fleeing or surrendering seems likely to deepen anger against the security forces and the ANC government.
The independent Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) said a return to work by Lonmin employees was a precondition for the start of any wage negotiations.
The labour troubles, fanned in part by glaring income disparities in South Africa, have been spreading from the platinum belt to the gold sector, unnerving investors.
Source: Reuters Africa. For more information, click here.