STRIKING platinum miners at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in South Africa defied the company’s sack threats yesterday and refused to return to work.
The 3,000 striking rock-drillers were told by Lonmin, owner of the platinum mine in Marikana in North West province, to return or be sacked.
The rock-drill operators, who have been leading the strike among the mine’s 25,000-strong labour force, defied the sack threat yesterday and remain on strike.
About 3,000 rock-drill operators (RDOs) at the mine walked out more than a week ago in support of demands for higher pay.
The strike was declared illegal by Lonmin, the world’s third-largest platinum producer, and police shot dead 34 strikers at the mine last Thursday, injuring dozens more, and the death toll has now reached 44.
As shares in the London-based Lonmin (formerly Lonrho) international privateer plummeted yesterday, a spokesperson admitted that the strikers remain out.
Initially following last Thursday’s massacre, the company ordered employees to return to work on Friday or face the sack, then extended the threat to yesterday. Yesterday the striking workers were warned return to work today or be sacked.
Conflict continues between the NUM and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which has accused the NUM of caring more about politics and personal enrichment than workers.
Lonmin’s sack threat deadline was also condemned by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).
‘It is too harsh of management to talk in this way,’ said its treasurer, Jimmy Gama, describing the ultimatum as ‘very unfair’.
The NUM said its feud with the AMCU union could spread, ‘threatening a setback for labour relations in South Africa’.
Lonmin shares – which fell 15% last week, fell a further 5% yesterday. The price of the metal has also been affected, with the cost of platinum rising around 6%.
But the striking miners are determined that their comrades have not died in vain.
Miner Kaizer Madiba said: ‘People have died already so we have nothing more to lose . . . we are going to continue fighting for what we believe is a legitimate fight for living wages. We would rather die like our comrades than back down.’
Another rock-driller said: ‘It’s better to die than to work for that shit . . . I am not going to stop striking.
‘We are going to protest until we get what we want. They have said nothing to us. Police can try and kill us but we won’t move.’
More than 250 workers appeared in court near the mine yesterday, facing charges concerning the strike.
About 100 women demonstrated outside court to support the men inside who are often the sole breadwinners for extended families trying to make ends meet on their meagre mining salaries.