News / Africa

    Pressure, Tension Grow in South Africa Miners' Strike

    Striking miners gather gathered at the Wonderkop Stadium in Marikana as they wait for Association of Mine workers and construction Union's president Joseph Mathunjwa to address them on May 14, 2014 in Marikana, South Africa.
    Striking miners gather gathered at the Wonderkop Stadium in Marikana as they wait for Association of Mine workers and construction Union's president Joseph Mathunjwa to address them on May 14, 2014 in Marikana, South Africa.
    Anita Powell
    South Africa’s largest platinum producer tried, and failed, to break the nation’s longest-ever strike this week, with an attempt to lure miners back after 16 weeks.  The head of the union leading the strike urged workers to stay firm as tensions rose in the mining town of Marikana.

    The thousands of miners who showed up Wednesday at the main stadium near Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana, South Africa, were not there to return to work, as their employer had hoped.

    Instead, they were there to show their resolve. The strike in South Africa’s platinum sector has gone on for a record-breaking 16 weeks, making this the longest, and costliest, strike in the nation’s history. Led by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, the walkout has halted about 40 percent of the world’s production of the precious metal.

    The union shows no signs of giving up, with its leader urging those thousands of members to “stay strong” and maintain the union’s firm demand of a basic wage of just more than $1,200 per month.

    That is the same amount the AMCU asked for in 2012 when it was a minority union and launched an illegal strike against Lonmin, in the process gaining members from the then-larger National Union of Mineworkers. That nearly two-month strike reached fever pitch on August 16 of that year, when South African police shot dead 34 striking miners.

    This time, police spokesman Thulani Ngubane said the scene in Marikana was peaceful, but was visibly annoyed when asked what police were doing to prevent a repeat of the 2012 violence.

    “We do not have a crystal ball, we do not know what tomorrow holds," he said. "But we are doing our work to the best of our ability, and what we are doing is we have flooded the area with police.”

    Ngubane said there were no reported incidents of violence, but the head of the rival National Union of Mineworkers, Frans Baleni, said his members had been intimidated.

    “We are concerned about the current instability, especially violence," he said. "We condemn the current violence, whereby some workers’ rights are being violated if they [are] not intending to participate in the strike.”

    This time around, it appears to be a game of attrition, with the workers caught in the middle. The economy of the town of Marikana, which surrounds Lonmin’s mine, has withered noticeably, as stores have closed and many of the 70,000 striking workers have returned to their rural homes.

    AMCU officials did not respond to repeated calls Thursday seeking comment about their strategy.

    The three main platinum producers affected by the strike, Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin, have bypassed the union and approached the workers directly with offers of pay raises of up to 10 percent.

    None of the three platinum producers or their media representative responded to several calls seeking comment.  But the three said this week in a joint statement that they want the strike to end, and their offer directly to workers was “fair, affordable and sustainable.”

    The ongoing strikes have also served to underscore the deep inequality that continues to plague this mineral-rich nation. The strike has also prompted President Jacob Zuma to accuse the union of being “irresponsible” and to call for miners to return to work.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Charles Palmer-Allen from: Pretoria South Africa
    June 19, 2014 12:05 AM
    As a former miner who worked long hours in the heat, dust and dangers of underground, I believe the wages of what the striking miners are demanding is way too low. Working underground is no joke and it is extremely stressful hard work, more than any other work that is done on surface. I agree with every striking miner and they deserve decent wages. Those who disagree should just work underground for one month and I can without doubt say that they will then also agree that miners should be paid much more than what they are demanding. Daily their health is effected, their lives are at risk and they work long hours, just for the sake of the economy where no one actually cares. The CEO of the mining group is paid millions a year whille he sits in an airconditioned office enjoying cookies and a cup of tea. Miners pay his salary and it is the miners who fill the pockets of the investers.

    by: john from: san diego
    May 15, 2014 5:59 PM
    Pay the people a living wage!

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.