News / Economy

    S. Africa Platinum Strike Ends, But Not Its Impact

    Mineworkers dance as they gather for check-ins near Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine before returning to work, June 25, 2014.
    Mineworkers dance as they gather for check-ins near Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine before returning to work, June 25, 2014.

    After a five-month strike, South African platinum mine workers began returning to work Wednesday after a deal was signed to end the country's longest and costliest labor action.  South African businesses and government are struggling to find ways to cope with the impact and to avoid such prolonged stand-offs in the future.

     In Marikana, there is an atmosphere of celebration and relief at the end of the strike.  
     
    On January 23 70,000 mineworkers downed their tools, demanding higher wages and benefits.  After months of stalemate, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) signed a deal June 24 with the world’s top platinum producers, Lonmin, Anglo-American Platinum and Impala Platinum, to end the crippling action.
     
    Boyfie Mgiba has been working in the mines for 20 years and says for the past five months he lived hand to mouth, depending on family and charities.  
     
    “That five months was tough, tough, tough, tough," he said. "Now I am very happy,” said Mgiba.

    Ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s, cited the costly strike as one of the main reasons South Africa’s credit rating was downgraded in May.
     
    Casualties from the strike, include shop owners who say they have missed rent payments and employees’ wages, forcing some shops to close.

    Taxi driver Mokhotlong believes it could take many months for some businesses to recover.
     
    “Everyone is happy, everybody yeah," he said.  "Because it was not right, total.  For everybody it was very bad."
     
    Many in Marikana can be seen wearing AMCU T-shirts in support of the union that negotiated the final deal for the mineworkers.  
     
    The three-year deal gives mineworkers an annual pay rise of around $94 per month for the next three years.  This is about a 20 percent increase, but far less than the 100 percent the AMCU originally demanded.
     
    AMCU was founded in 2001 and has steadily accumulated support, and political clout.  

    “A victory for the working class,” is how union president Joseph Mathunjwa described the end of South Africa’s most costly and longest strike.
     
    “I would say that this was a breakthrough we have managed to unshackle ourselves from this structure that came long from colonization to the national party, to the last 20 years of our democracy that have not been challenged, so it is a breakthrough,” he said.
     
    Proudly wearing a faded green AMCU shirt, Lonmin miner Kgomotso Mothoagae says he is delighted with the deal and the struggle was well worth the reward.
     
    “Joseph Mathunjwa did a very good job for the workers. It is getting more members... It is growing now AMCU, it is growing tremendously," he said. "Mathunjwa is doing a very good job.”
     
    But the strike cost mining companies an estimated $2.3 billion in earnings and producers are widely expected to restructure, which will inevitably lead to job cuts and could potentially pave the way for further walk-outs.
     
    The strike has had a huge impact in the country and has led to growing calls for legal "strike breaking" mechanisms to allow the courts or the state to intervene during protracted and costly strikes.

    The labor court here has already blocked AMCU’s call for strikes in the gold sector.  

    Economists say something needs to change.
     
    “The way things should proceed is to the constitutional courts," said labor economist with Adcorp, Loane Sharp. "The constitutional courts need to produce guidelines on how to balance these rights.  

    Sharp says unions in South Africa may be losing their potency, despite their latest strike victory.  
     
    “In the year 2013, based on official data, union membership countrywide dropped from 3.3 million to three million, a drop of nearly 10 percent," he said. "During 2013, unions lost... [$9.3 million] in lost membership dues, due to declining membership.”
     
    More trouble is on the horizon for South Africa’s government and businesses.  The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), the country's biggest union with more than 200,000 members, is threatening to down tools from July 1, a move that would hinder the country's crucial auto industry. 

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8998
    JPY
    USD
    103.32
    GBP
    USD
    0.7594
    CAD
    USD
    1.3176
    INR
    USD
    66.954

    Rates may not be current.