Lonmin workers back on hilltop

2012-08-15 14:11
Protesting miners stage a sit-in on a hill near Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine. (AP)

Protesting miners stage a sit-in on a hill near Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine. (AP)

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Johannesburg - Striking miners gathered on a hill in Wonderkop near Lonmin's Marikana mine on Wednesday while police helicopters circled overhead.

Local residents said most of the men left the hill overnight and returned in the morning.

On Tuesday afternoon, they vowed to stay there until their demands for higher salaries were met. It was believed the men went to the hilltop to receive traditional medicine to "make them brave".

Police restricted access to a road leading to the mine on Wednesday morning, and a fleet of police vehicles approached the hill.
Residents of a nearby village meanwhile continued their daily routines.

Work without fear


Trade union Solidarity expressed concern over the safety of non-striking workers at the mine.

General secretary Gideon du Plessis said the union was grateful to the police for sending reinforcements to the area since Monday.

"We believe that employees can work under the current circumstances, but we will continually monitor the situation together with Lonmin's management," he said.

"Although there is a strong police presence in the veld and residential areas near the mine, Solidarity is of the opinion that the shafts at the mines must be safeguarded to enable employees to go to work without fear."

If the union felt its members were not adequately protected, it would hold talks with mine management. Police spokesperson Captain Dennis Adriao said protecting the mine shafts was not in the police's jurisdiction and referred questions about these security arrangements to the mine.

Lonmin was not immediately able to comment on the protection it was affording to non-striking workers.

Adriao said no violence had been reported by 11:30. No arrests had been made by this time either.

Concern

Earlier, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu expressed concern over the violent protests at the North West mine, her office said on Wednesday.

"The minister is gravely concerned, and is condemning the violence at Lonmin's Marikana mine, and will engage with the minister of police," her spokesperson Zingaphi Jakuja said.

Shabangu said those who committed crimes during the protest needed to be brought to book.

Lonmin described the situation at the Marikana mine as "calm" on Wednesday morning.

"Things are calm but there is a heavy police presence," the company said just after 09:00.

Details relating to the death of a 10th person were still emerging. It was unclear when the man was killed. His body was discovered on Tuesday, the platinum producer said.

Chamber of Mines spokesperson Jabu Maphalala said the employers' organisation would not comment on the unrest as it did not have enough information.

Fatalities

On Friday, thousands of Lonmin rock drill operators started an illegal strike and protest march.

Ten people - two police officers, two security guards, three protesters and three other men - had been killed since then.

A Sapa reporter on the scene said the body of 10th victim, clad in khaki, was found about 100m from a hilltop where workers gathered on Tuesday afternoon.

The protests are believed to be linked to rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) over recognition agreements at the mine.

Workers also wanted higher wages. They claim to be earning R4 000 a month, with those living outside the hostel earning an extra R1 000.

Reported demands included pay of R12 500 a month.

Read more on:    amcu  |  num  |  lonmin  |  mahikeng  |  mining unrest  |  labour  |  mining

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