News / Africa

South African Mine Re-opens as Tensions Continue

Mosiuoa Lekota, leader for Congress of the People (COPE) addresses mine workers at the Lonmin mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, Monday, Aug. 20, 2012.
Mosiuoa Lekota, leader for Congress of the People (COPE) addresses mine workers at the Lonmin mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, Monday, Aug. 20, 2012.
Anita Powell
JOHANNESBURG – Tensions remain at a troubled South African platinum mine, where police shot and killed dozens of striking miners last week.

President Jacom Zuma declared a national week of mourning starting Monday following the shooting at the Lonmin mine northwest of Johannesburg.

But the workers also got a message from the company: get back to work or you are fired.

An official representing  Lonmin mine said the ultimatum only applies to the 3,000 workers who started the strike that culminated in Thursday’s confrontation in which police shot dead 34 miners.

According to the official, the other 25,000 workers were asked to return to work, but do not face consequences for disobeying.  The official said she was not authorized to be quoted.  

She said 27 percent of the workers showed up to work on Monday.  A police spokesman said officers are in the area and there were no major incidents early Monday. 

Meanwhile, a striker who was present during Thursday’s shooting said the workers were planning to regroup and would not back down on their demands.  The 24-year-old worker, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Siphiwo, did not give details.

“No,  I am not going back to work," he insisted. "Until the management comes to us and agrees with us and comes to our demands, we are not going back to work.  Today we are gathering again today ...  If we go back to work, it means our brothers were killed for nothing.”

Several-hundred arrested miners face charges including murder and attempted murder.  
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
Mining is one of South Africa’s biggest industries.  The events at the mine have had international consequences. In addition to affecting global platinum prices,  Lonmin share prices have fallen.

Lonmin is the world’s third-largest platinum producer.  The precious metal is used in car parts and jewelry.

The event has also shaken South Africans who say such violent images of police firing at protesters remind them of the apartheid era.

President Zuma has called for an investigation, which will likely take months. In the meantime, tensions continue.

  • An unidentified woman chants as she protests against the police opening fire and killing striking mine workers a day earlier at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, August 17, 2012.
  • Members of a South African police crime unit investigate the scene of the shooting of miners at the Lonmin mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, August 17, 2012.
  • An unidentified woman cries as she protests against the police opening fire and killing striking mine workers a day earlier at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, August 17, 2012.
  • A policeman fires at protesting miners outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, August 16, 2012.
  • Policemen fire at striking miners outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, August 16, 2012.
  • A miner runs as police shoot outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, August 16, 2012.
  • Policemen in teargas and dust open fire on striking miners at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, August 16, 2012.
  • Police open fire on striking miners at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, August 16, 2012.
  • A paramedic (front L) receives help from a policewomen as he tends to the injured after protesting miners were shot outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, August 16, 2012.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Interdicts
August 24, 2012 1:02 AM
By way of interest for all to see up front especially the Press, a publication summary of Court Interdicts issued against the Trade Unions for each Province in South Africa, since 1994 till the present would certainly go a long way to illustrate what has been happening to the myth of normal negotiations - let alone the monetary losses to the economy as a whole

by: BHONEST
August 23, 2012 3:05 PM
Union members arming themselves with dangerous weapons in such large numbers had one clear intent - confrontation with the Police. This is supported by the death of two Policemen and several workers. The union members were beyond control of their leadership and it is extremely doubtful whether they were ever under any form of control, for once in such a large number, who could control them and their propensity for violence against anyone in their way????

by: JR from: BR
August 21, 2012 1:52 PM
It is incredible that that occurs in S. A. a democratic country which harshly fought against the unjust violence. What seems a right workers' demand become a brutal morder. And the country's rullers what they say, what they do beyond mourn it.

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