Striking miners chant
and brandish weapons
outside Lonmin’s
Marikana platinum
mine in South Africa
Johannesburg, South Africa — 20 August 2012 – Striking workers at the world’s No. 3 platinum producer Lonmin “’ where 44 people have been killed in a week of violence “’ are facing the possibility of dismissal if they do not return to work today, a company spokeswoman said.

Last Thursday, 34 people were gunned down by police in a hail of bullets from automatic weapons when authorities moved in against 3,000 striking workers armed with machetes, spears and handguns, who were camped on a hill at Lonmin’s Marikana mine, about 100 km north-west of here, reports Reuters.

Ten people were killed prior to the police shooting, including a NUM shop steward who was hacked to death and two policemen.

“The final ultimatum was extended to today following Thursday’s events,” spokeswoman Gillian Findlay said yesterday. “Employees may be dismissed if they fail to heed the final ultimatum,” she said.

London-based Lonmin accounts for 12% of global platinum output. It is already struggling with low prices and weak demand, and may miss its annual production target of 750,000oz as the quarter to the end of September is typically its best.

The strike was sparked by a turf war between the powerful National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the upstart Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which has accused NUM of caring more about politics than workers in mine shafts.

The NUM has been a breeding ground of leaders for the ruling African National Congress party and one of the union’s former top officials now sits on Lonmin’s board as a non-executive director.

NUM general secretary Frans Baleni said on a nationally televised talk show yesterday that he was not sure if the miners would return to work.

President Zuma has called the killings “shocking” and called for a commission of inquiry to look into the matter. He has declared a week-long period of mourning from today to commemorate the lives of South Africans who have died violently, including those killed at the Lonmin mine.

Source: Reuters Africa. For more information, click here.