News / Africa

    South Africa Mining Unrest Far from Over

    Mineworkers take part in a march outside the Anglo American mine in South Africa's North West Province, September 12, 2012.
    Mineworkers take part in a march outside the Anglo American mine in South Africa's North West Province, September 12, 2012.
    Anita Powell
    Labor unrest is threatening to spread across South Africa's mining sector after a firebrand youth leader called for workers across the nation to make the mines "ungovernable." 

    At the Lonmin platinum mine where the strikes started, workers' attendance has plunged to its lowest level yet. Just 1.8 percent of workers turned up at the mine in Marikana township Wednesday - a clear sign that South Africa’s mining woes are far from over.

    South Africa's Mining Industry

    • Number of workers: 498,141
    • Industry deaths: 128
    • Key commodities mined: Diamonds, gold, platinum, palladium
    • Real mining GDP: $12.06 billion
    • Mineral exports: $36.25 billion

    Source: Chamber of Mines of South Africa Figures for 2010
    The company said in a statement it is continuing to seek a negotiated solution after weeks of strikes and violence have led to at least 45 deaths, including that of a man found hacked to death outside the Marikana mine on Tuesday.

    The illegal action has caught on at other mining companies in the mineral-rich nation, encouraged in part by ex-youth leader Julius Malema.

    Malema calls movement a "revolution"

    Malema did not mince words when he spoke to miners on Tuesday.  He called for a national mining strike.  He has repeatedly called on workers to make South Africa’s mining sector “ungovernable” and calls his movement a “revolution.”

    The workers appear to be listening.

    Mining giant Impala Platinum says its workers are now demanding a raise - which if granted, would be their second increase in six months.

    Impala spokesman Bob Gilmour says it’s possible that the strikers were motivated by their brothers-in-arms at Lonmin. 

    “It’s possible that is part of the reason, because there’s a lot of hype... as you gather in the mining industry, so it’s possible it’s coming from there.  So that’s the demand that they came forward with, and currently what we’re doing is we’re sitting down and meeting with all stakeholders to discuss the issues and do a full review of everything.  So that’s where we stand at this point in time," said Gilmour.

    Political, social unrest

    The strikes are happening against a backdrop of political and social unrest in South Africa.  Poor South Africans have held increasingly violent protests over their lack of basic services.  And politicians are jockeying for power ahead of an important party conference later this year.

    Gilmour says there are many forces at work driving the labor unrest.

    "It’s a very difficult question," he said.  "I think there’s a whole lot of issues coming into play here, in terms of… maybe there are some concerns about salary, but I think the issues are more about service delivery and local communities etcetera and possibly political… also events in the background being played out.  So it’s not a straightforward issue regarding salaries.  I think salaries, or wages, are just being used as a rallying call, put it that way.”

    Impact on world platinum market

    Regardless of the cause, the strike at Lonmin has immobilized the South Africa platinum mine and shaken world markets.

    A peace accord signed last week stipulated that workers return to work by Monday.  That deadline was extended to Tuesday but has still not been followed.

    Workers launched a wildcat strike in August after union negotiations broke down.  On August 16, strikers clashed with police at the mine some 100 kilometers from Johannesburg, leading police to shoot dead 34 demonstrators.  The government has ordered an investigation into the matter.

    The workers are demanding a threefold pay raise to about $1,500 a month.  Meanwhile, their absence from work has seriously impacted the platinum market and Lonmin’s productivity.

    You May Like

    Video US Observes Memorial Day With Wreath-laying, National Concert

    Obama lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora