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Striking Amplats miners dig in

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Striking Anglo American Platinum workers will not suspend their strike, the Rustenburg Joint Strike Co-ordinating Committee said on Sunday.

A file photograph shows striking miners at Lonmin. (Paul Botes, M&G)

"We are not going to be intimidated into submission. We are not going to participate in any form of disciplinary hearing," said spokesperson Mametlwe Sebei.

He said the disciplinary hearing was a threat aimed at forcing the workers to abandon their strike.

"We will engage management on issues relating to our demand, which is a R16 000 salary [at Amplats mines]."

He said the only way to resolve issues affecting miners in South Africa was to nationalise the mines.

"The only way to deal with the cheap migrant labour legacy is to allow mine workers to own these mines through nationalisation."

Sebei said he would be visiting other mines to push for their demand for a basic salary of R12 500.

" I will be at mines in Limpopo, Free State and Carletonville from Monday."

On Saturday, he told reporters in Marikana near Rustenburg that the strike in the mining sector was continuing despite threats of dismissal.

"No amount of threats or deaths can stop us. We are determined to continue with the strike."

Sebei said a meeting of the strike committees in all mines in the country had agreed to intensify the strike.

"We have agreed to escalate the strike. We are going to shut down the bit that is still operating. All workers in the country must be paid a minimum of R12 500. We are calling for a minimum wage for all workers."

He said it had been agreed that workers should embark on a national strike in November to push for a minimum wage. The national strike was planned for November 3.

Sebei, who is from the Democratic Socialist Movement, denied they had "hijacked" the mineworkers strike.

"We are in solidarity with the workers. Four weeks after the [Lonmin] Marikana strike, we saw that no one was standing up for the workers and we offered them solidarity."

He said his movement would canvas international support for mineworkers.

"We will call for a solidarity march at SA embassies abroad, the day workers stage a national strike. It is not fair that mineworkers are living in poor condition while the bosses' pets are far better off."

The committee, made up of leaders from different mines in Rustenburg, met with other workers' leaders from mines in Limpopo, the Free State and Mpumalanga with a view of forming a national committee that would speak for mineworkers.

"We need to have a constitution that will guide us to deal with those who left the structures once issues at their mines have been resolved," said Evan Ramokga, one of the leaders.

He said leaders at mines that were still operating should not expose strikers to arrest by leading them to shut down the mines.

"Do not use the wildcat [strikes]. You expose them to arrest. Rather come to us to share ideas. We know how to shut the mines. The aim is to stop smelters from operating."

Amplats has fired 12 000 workers for failing to attend disciplinary hearings.

On Friday, Amplats said the four-week strike had cost it R1.1-billion in revenue.

Drop call to nationalise

Meanwhile, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu has warned that the call to nationalise mining companies should be dropped.

The ANC's Mangaung conference in December is expected to deal with the issue of nationalising strategic assets, such as mines.

"The biggest issue when it comes to policy issues is whether Mangaung will nationalise [mines]. We've dealt with that issue, but [investors] continue to raise it," Shabangu was quoted as saying in City Press on Sunday.

"We are confident that when we come out of Mangaung we will be able to put this matter aside and it will bring and instil much more investor confidence."

Shabangu was concerned that protracted strikes in the mining sector had dented investor confidence.

"It has been a cause for concern because it's not a once-off; it is sort of spiralling in the mining industry," she reportedly said.

Shabangu's comments followed an emergency meeting on the economy called by President Jacob Zuma on Friday night involving government, business and labour.

He called on business and labour to work together to find solutions and was concerned by violence associated with strikes.

"We are confident that working together we will be able to find solutions, informed by the Constitution and the values of our democracy. We have a long history of productive social partnerships in our country," said Zuma.

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