Zuma vows to end mining strikes in South Africa


Thousands of miners protesting for huge pay hikes vowed Thursday to bring South Africa’s key mining sector to its knees as strikes paralysed two of the world’s major platinum giants.

President Jacob Zuma warned his government would soon act to rein in the growing unrest gripping the sector, as Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world’s top platinum producer, remained shuttered for a second day after the company suspended operations over security concerns.

Lonmin, the world’s number three platinum producer, said slightly over one percent of workers at its Marikana mine showed up Thursday as a wildcat strike that has killed 45 people there crept into its second month.

Zuma told lawmakers he had directed relevant ministers “to discuss how do we deal with this issue and very very soon we will be able to let the public know because it can no longer be accepted.”

It was Zuma’s first official comment since the labour troubles spread to Amplats, which shut down five mines Wednesday along the platinum belt near the northwest town of Rustenburg, and Gold Fields, where 15,000 workers have been striking since Sunday.

The labour unrest has snowballed since a wildcat strike hit London-listed Lonmin’s Marikana operation last month and police there gunned down 34 people on August 16.

Around 5,000 workers at Amplats gathered Thursday at a stadium where they were addressed by activists.

“By the evening of Sunday all the mining industries in Rustenburg will be on its knees,” said Mametlwe Sebei, a non-Amplats employee and member of the Democratic Socialist Movement political party, who warned protesters would march on the seat of government in Pretoria.

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Reacting to activists who have sought to inflame tensions in the sector, Zuma said there were “people of some description who are going there to instigate miners.

“It cannot be accepted, and therefore we are looking into that. We are going to be acting very soon.”

Firebrand Julius Malema, who has been expelled from the president’s ruling African National Congress (ANC), has urged miners to strike every month and render mines “ungovernable” until their demands are met.

Amplats workers are demanding 12,500 rand ($1,487, 1,152 euros), the same as their Lonmin colleagues.

The company, which had earlier denied its employees were on strike — saying that it suspended production after workers were intimidated with the threat of violence — confirmed Thursday that some of its workers took part in the rally.

The labour strife at Amplats — which produces around 40 percent of global platinum output — is the latest to hit South Africa’s vital mining industry.

Amplats management said it had received a memorandum from a small group of workers and management was reviewing it.

The company has said it will only reopen when operations can safely resume.(AFP)

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