Fired Amplats workers gather for protest

2012-10-06 10:16
Amplats worker (Picture: AFP)

Amplats worker (Picture: AFP)

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Two more mines join strike

2012-10-04 11:54

Kumba Iron Ore's Sishen mine workers in the Northern Cape on Wednesday joined their Gauteng Gold One counterparts in the wildcat strike that's crippling the mining sector. Watch.WATCH

Rustenburg - Some of the 12 000 miners sacked by the world's largest platinum producer gathered on Saturday to protest their dismissal and mourn a colleague killed in clashes with police.

Around 100 miners started arriving at a stadium in Rustenburg, to debate how to respond to the mass dismissal by Anglo American Platinum (Amplats).

"Last night I received a message to say I've been dismissed because of the illegal strike," said Mkhari, 23, who only started work two months ago.

"It's not right. I've a lot of debt, a child, rent..." said his friend Mpoti, also 23.

Police armoured vehicles parked outside the stadium, while a helicopter circled the area.

Marikana murder


Meanwhile, in the nearby town of Marikana a union branch leader at a different mine was shot dead Friday evening, his union said.

"A branch secretary of the union at Western Platinum was shot and killed at his house in Marikana this (Friday) evening," said National Union of Mineworkers spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka.

Unions have come under fire as workers reject the traditional negotiation structures and accuse their guilds of conniving with mine managers.

Around 28 000 Amplats workers have been on a wildcat strike for three weeks at the firm's sprawling facilities in Rustenburg, which account for around a quarter of world platinum production.

Amplats on Friday said the miners failed to appear before disciplinary hearings "and have therefore been dismissed in their absence".

It is the latest crisis to hit South Africa's vital minerals sector, which has been crippled by a wave of violent disputes over miners' pay since August.

The company said the strike had so far cost R700m in lost revenue.

"Despite the company's repeated calls for employees to return to work, we have continued to experience attendance levels of less than 20%," Amplats said in a statement.

Violence


But with many miners unwilling to give up their demands for higher pay and Amplats taking a tough line, the spectre of violence looms.

In August 46 people died during a strike at the Lonmin platinum mine in nearby Marikana.

"Things now are tuning to a point," said Gaddhafi Mdoda a worker and activist. "They are leaving us with no choice."

At least seven people have been killed around Rustenburg in strike-related violence this week.

Late Thursday one miner was killed when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a group of 300 illegal strikers protesting on a hilltop close to the mines.

The independent police watchdog is investigating the man's death "as the incident appeared to have arisen from police action," according to police spokesperson Emelda Setlhako.

With around 100 000 workers currently on strike across the country, President Jacob Zuma - who has publicly kept his distance from the crisis - has called for the work stoppages to end.

"We should not seek to portray ourselves as a nation that is perpetually fighting," he told business leaders in Johannesburg.

Investors, already spooked by earlier violence, warned Friday's dismissals could deepen a crisis that has already paralysed an industry that accounts for around 20% of the country's GDP.

"The government is doing nothing," said Peter Attard Montalto, a strategist with Japanese bank Nomura, who warned the strikes had already shaved 0.2 to 0.3% off third quarter growth.

Analysts have warned that the strikers' demands will result in job losses in the country where one in every four employable people is already out of work.

In February, Amplats' rival Impala Platinum fired 17 000 workers, only to rehire them a few weeks later as part of a wage agreement.

Amplats on Friday indicated it was open to "exploring the possibility of bringing forward wage negotiations within our current agreements".

- Are you there? Send us your eyewitness accounts and photos.
Read more on:    amplats  |  mahikeng  |  strikes  |  mining unrest
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