Zuma defends mine clampdown, denies taking sides

September 17, 2012 3:48 am
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Zuma, ahead of a tense COSATU congress which he is to formally open on Monday, added that worker living conditions were unacceptable and said they have a right to engage their employers.

“There are still hostels where 166 people share four toilets in some mines and that is not acceptable. Mining companies and trade unions must urgently discuss and resolve the issues.”

Tensions have spilled over from Lonmin since a wage strike started on August 10 and forced shut-downs at several mines, including those of the world’s top platinum producer Amplats and number-four producer Aquarius Platinum.

Anglo American, which shut its operations in Rustenberg last week, announced Sunday that it would resume work on Tuesday as the situation was calm.

Sunday marked a month since the deadly bloodshed at Lonmin, where an already deadly strike in which two police officers had been killed exploded into the police shooting on August 16, sending shockwaves around the world with its echoes of apartheid-era brutality.

A mediator in Lonmin’s wage talks, which are set to resume Monday, warned the government’s crackdown could lead to a “complete revolt across the platinum belt”.

“Government must be crazy believing that what to me resembles an apartheid-era crackdown can succeed,” said Bishop Jo Seoka, president of the South African Council of Churches.

“We must not forget that such crackdowns in the past led to more resistance,” he added.
Lonmin’s acting chief executive Simon Scott said that workers’ demands for a 12,500-rand ($1,524, 1,161-euro) monthly wage would cost 2.3 billion rand to implement.

“This would put many thousands of existing jobs at risk and indeed challenge the viability of the business,” he wrote in the Sunday Times.

“We have had our wake-up call, as has the rest of South Africa,” he wrote, saying this did not mean the world’s number three platinum producer had neglected its commitments.

“Rather, it is a recognition that we — like everybody else — now better recognise the increased scale and urgency of the problem. It will not be an easy journey.”

Also Sunday, South Africa’s ruling African National Congress called on platinum mines to learn from the deadly conflict and change how they negotiate with employees.

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