News / Africa

South African Striking Miners Reject Wage Offer

Striking Lonmin Platinum miners gather in Marikana, South Africa, where a new wage offer was rejected, Sept. 14, 2012.
Striking Lonmin Platinum miners gather in Marikana, South Africa, where a new wage offer was rejected, Sept. 14, 2012.
Anita Powell
Striking South Africa platinum mine workers have rejected a new wage offer from their employer after a five-week illegal strike that has been plagued with deadly violence. Meanwhile, South Africa’s government says it won’t tolerate any more violence or unrest. 

South African officials said Friday that enough is enough after five weeks of illegal mining strikes that have led to dozens of deaths and paralyzed the nation’s most important industry.

In a statement issued Friday by the office of Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, the government said it will no longer tolerate violence and intimidation like they have seen at the Lonmin platinum mine. More than 45 people have been killed in weeks of violence over a pay dispute at that mine, located some 100 kilometers from Johannesburg.

Impact of productivity

Those weeks of violence have seriously impacted the platinum market and Lonmin’s productivity.

On Friday, Lonmin reported its worst attendance figures yet: just 0.31 percent of workers showed up. If that percentage were applied to Lonmin’s total workforce of 28,000, that means less than 90 people came to work Friday.

Government spokesman Phumla Williams says while the workers are free to strike, they need to stop intimidating and hurting others.

“We cannot allow violence to continue and innocent people being killed while they are getting on with their lives. And I’m sure you do appreciate that we do have law enforcement agencies that will ensure that safety and that the country is actually safe for every South African who wants to work," said Williams. "In South Africa people are entitled to strike within the law. People are entitled to get on with their lives and feel that their rights, that they can voice their view. But what we are not appreciating is when they do it outside of the law. For instance they cannot actually gather and have actually some people being killed."

Williams would not say what action the authorities might take, if any, against ex-youth leader Julius Malema, who earlier this week called for a national mining strike.

Malema has repeatedly called on workers to make South Africa’s mining sector “ungovernable” and calls his movement a “revolution.”

No end in sight

But the strike shows no sign of ending after workers rejected Lonmin’s initial pay offer on Friday.

The workers are demanding a raise from about $500 a month to about $1,500 - that’s about 12,500 South African rand.

Miner Gilbert Temo says his colleagues told him Lonmin offered a raise of up to 900 rand - about $100 - a month for rock drillers. Other, less skilled workers were offered a 500-rand raise.

He says workers’ demands - and reasoning - are simple. "They say they want 200 percent, not 10 percent. They say they want 12.5 [thousand rand, $1,500], not less than 12.5. So if it’s less than 12.5, they won’t take it,” he explained.

Lonmin refused to release details of their offer, but the 900-rand (about $100) offer is in line with other media reports.

Jimmy Gama, the treasurer of the union credited with starting the strike, said negotiations are still ongoing.

Gama’s Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union has said the situation has escalated to the point that they now want President Jacob Zuma to call a top-level meeting.

Three major mines have been paralyzed as labor unrest has spread.

Lonmin 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.

You May Like

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs