/ 12 May 2014

Three workers killed amid platinum belt strike – NUM

Three Workers Killed Amid Platinum Belt Strike Num

Three workers were hacked to death on Monday in South Africa’s restive platinum belt where a strike action is in its fourth month, said the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

Two of the workers were killed while on their way to work, while the third was attacked at his home along with his wife, who also died, NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu, told Agence France-Presse.

According to police spokesperson Brigadier Thulane Ngubane on Monday, a 60-year-old mineworker was found dead with multiple stab wounds in Bapong. “On Sunday, in Bapong village, a couple was found strangled to death, the wife was stripped naked, the husband was a mineworker … the couple ran an illegal shebeen,” said Ngubane. 

Another miner was burned to ashes in the Big House informal settlement in Bapong. Ngubane said six miners were stabbed while they were on their way to work on Monday. 

Meanwhile, world number three platinum producer Lonmin said it anticipated a “mass return to work” on Wednesday at its strike-hit operations, according to an internal company memo to employees.

“Managers and supervisors are returning from leave and ramp plans are in place for a safe return,” said the memo, dated Friday and seen by Reuters.

“Lonmin is gearing up for a serious back to work offensive on Monday 12 May in anticipation of a mass return to work on 14 May,” the memo said.

Longest strike ever
Lonmin and larger rivals Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum have been taking wage offers directly to employees in a bid to end a 15-week strike after talks with the Amcu collapsed.

The strike is the longest and costliest ever on South Africa’s mines, highlighting discontent among black miners who feel they are still not reaping the benefits of the country’s mineral wealth two decades after apartheid ended.

It has hit 40% of global platinum supplies and dented already sluggish growth in the country.

Lonmin already said it was hoping to restart on May 14 if enough of its workers indicated their willingness to accept the offer by Thursday, and non-Amcu union sources told Reuters on Friday managers had been visiting shafts.

The memo said striking employees could still “indicate their intention to accept the offer”.

A showdown is looming on South Africa’s restive platinum belt as Amcu’s leaders maintain that most of their roughly 70 000 striking members are not happy with the latest offer. Its officials were not immediately available for comment on Saturday.

‘Security plan’
But the companies, betting that the rank and file are keen to return after more than three months without pay, have been going directly to the employees through campaigns that have included SMS surveys.

The Lonmin memo said a “security plan is in place” and that buses would be provided to bring workers back.

The memo also stated security would be regarded as crucial as the companies say Amcu is using violence and intimidation to keep its members in line – allegations the union has denied.

Implats said on Thursday it was also conducting an SMS vote on the offer late this week.

The companies are offering increases of up to 10% that they say would raise the overall minimum pay package to R12 500 a month by July 2017, including cash allowances such as for housing.

Amcu had initially demanded an immediate increase to R12 500 in basic wages, excluding allowances, but softened that stance in March to staggered increases that would amount to R12 500 within three or four years – still a third more than what the companies are offering in basic salaries. – AFP, Reuters, Sapa