Striking miners urged to return to work
Johannesburg - Striking mineworkers at the Impala Platinum mine in Rustenburg were urged to go back to work by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Saturday.
"The NUM is committed to a peaceful resolution at Implats and appeals to all its members and workers in general to return to the operations next week when their issues are being addressed," spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said.
The protests began in Phokeng on Thursday, with mineworkers apparently intimidating and assaulting people trying to get to and from work in the township outside Rustenburg.
They barricaded roads heading towards Freedom Park and threw stones at cars and looted shops. The crowd also torched a satellite police station in Freedom park.
Seshoka said the union met with Impala Platinum management on Friday night in an attempt to resolve the current impasse in Rustenburg.
"The company agreed to re-employ all the 17 200 workers and that as soon as all the workers are back at work, both NUM and Implats will meet to engage on all outstanding issues."
He said these issues would include the disparities between the bonuses given to miners which excluded the rockdrill operators as well as issues of re-instatement.
However if Impala Platinum failed to meet its commitments when all workers returned to work, the union would call a general strike at the company's operations.
The union appealed to its members to disregard ill-fated advice from anti-revolutionary forces in and around Rustenburg, Seshoka said.
"The NUM strongly condemns the violent behaviour demonstrated by criminal elements taking advantage of the volatile situation and appeals for calm as well as to the law enforcement agencies to make decisive intervention whenever violence raises its ugly head."
On Saturday North West police said most of the striking workers had dispersed for the weekend.
"There is nothing new at the mine. I think the workers have probably all gone home for the weekend, " said Brigadier Thulani Ngubane.
He said police maintained a heavy presence around Rustenburg to keep watch through the weekend.
Six workers were arrested on Friday after they allegedly looted a bottle store near the mine.
Ngubane said about 3000 workers gathered at the mine on Friday morning and had intended to march to the home of the king of the Royal Bafokeng nation, Kgosi Leruo Molotlegi, to hand over a memorandum.
However, their plans were thwarted by police because they did not have permission to march.
On Thursday, the situation at the mine was hostile and tense, and more than 100 mineworkers were arrested after violent protests.
The mineworkers were fired after a dispute over a retention bonus and an illegal strike.
The first to be dismissed were about 5000 rock drillers when they refused to accept that they would not get the bonus.
They then went on an illegal strike.
The rest of the over 17,000 workers were later fired for not being at work.
Impala said it had lost production of 60,000 troy ounces (1866kg) since the start of the strike almost a month ago.