S.Africa’s no pay for platinum strikers hits shacks

September 18, 2012 6:30 am


South Africa miners demonstrating/FILE
South Africa, Sept 18 – One month into the deadly strike at South Africa’s Lonmin platinum mine the reality of “no work, no pay” is hitting hard in the humble shantytowns at the foot of the giant plant.

Debt repayments have been pushed aside. Shack rentals have gone unpaid. And Africa’s biggest disaster relief agency, renowned for its work in war zones like Somalia and Libya, is trucking in daily meals as hunger levels rise at the platinum mine.

“We are suffering now,” said Victoria Makasi, 25, whose striking father’s pay was halved to 1,500 rands ($183, 143 euros) at the end of last month.

Workers have refused to end their militant strike until the crippled mine buckles to wage demands, with their defiance underpinned by the police shooting dead 34 colleagues in the bloodiest crackdown since apartheid last month.

In the Makasi family’s humble two-roomed shack built out of corrugated metal sheets and shared by five people, the shelves of the gas-powered fridge are completely bare of food.

“I am very very worried for my family,” said Makasi.

The world’s number three platinum producer Lonmin has warned that an indefinite strike will threaten 40,000 jobs, yet most of its 28,000 Marikana workforce have snubbed calls to return to the shafts.

Instead, in the shacks opposite a rubbish-strewn field from the mine, the families of the workers fully backed their demands despite the pinch.

“We are starving,” said Nomandla Mteto after picking up a free meal of chicken stew and rice near the site of the police shooting.

Meals in the Mteto’s shack have been cut down to cabbage and thick cornmeal porridge since her husband’s pay was docked to just over 3,000 rands. Credit bills and 650 rand rent have gone unpaid this month.

Yet while she knows the real struggle will be at the end of this month if the strike is not called off, she fully backs the wildcat stayaway after the bloodiest police crackdown since the fall of apartheid in 1994.

“They deserve it. So if they go back to work now… they will feel like they betrayed them (the slain miners),” she said.

Part 1 | Part 2

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