World’s top platinum miner suspends SA work amid unrest

September 12, 2012 3:51 pm
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“Now we want to show them that we mean business. We are going to be engaging in very peaceful yet radical and militant action that will hit straight into the pockets of white monopoly capital.”

At least 45 people have died – including 34 in a police shooting last month which has been described as the worst case of police violence since the end of apartheid – at the Marikana mine, just 20 kilometres from Amplats.

The site is run by Lonmin, the world’s third biggest platinum producer, and workers there have yet to reach a deal with management and return to work.

Some unions and firebrand leader Malema have since whipped up Lonmin workers’ demand for a basic salary of 12,500 rands ($1,500) – a threefold increase on the industry average – into the centrepiece of a national campaign.

Some Amplats workers are eyeing even more.

“We want 14,500 (rand), but we can’t settle for less than 12,500,” Aggripa Phiri, a 40-year-old team supervisor told AFP, rebuffing Amplats claims that workers on the streets were not its employees.

“See our clock cards,” he said as the group of protesters flashed their bright blue employee cards.

The strikes have been used as a battleground for a leadership struggle ahead of a key ANC election in December.

Some unions and firebrand leader Malema have since whipped up Lonmin workers’ demand for a basic salary of 12,500 rands ($1,500).

Malema, who was convicted of hate speech and expelled from the ANC earlier this year, has used the miners’ discontent to launch fresh attacks on President Jacob Zuma and his leadership who have sought to assure investors that the country is a stable destination for foreign investors.

On Wednesday he told soldiers who were suspended in 2009 for a strike over pay demands that the country was a “banana republic”.

“Everything is collapsing, we need to rebuild confidence. People don’t have roads, clean water, not jobs and those with jobs are treated as slaves. These are the symptom of a dictatorship,” he charged.

The government has vigorously condemned what it describes as irresponsible rabble-rousing but Malema has struck a chord with many who see the mining giants as the symbol of the social inequalities plaguing the country.

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