A quarter of the workforce returned to the Marikana platinum mine yesterday where 44 men were killed last week in clashes that evoked memories of apartheid-era violence.
Mine owner Lonmin had threatened about 3,000 striking workers with dismissal if they did not show up at Marikana, 100km northwest of Johannesburg, where 34 miners armed with spears, machetes and handguns were gunned down in a hail of police fire on Thursday.
Ten people were killed prior to the police shooting, including a shop steward from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the country’s biggest union, who was hacked to death.
The mayhem was sparked by a spreading battle for membership between the NUM and the Association of Mine- workers and Construction Union (AMCU), which has accused its rival of caring more about politics and personal enrichment than workers.
Lonmin, the third-largest platinum producer in the world, said in a statement that, with unions, it would address a news conference “in a bid to attract people back to work”.
It said 27.3% at the Marikana mine, which employs 28,000 people, had returned to work.
Separately, more than 250 people began appearing in court to face charges such as murder, attempted murder and assault related to the deadliest security incident since the end of apartheid in 1994.
NUM has said its feud with the militant AMCU union — seen as behind the Lonmin strike — could spread, threatening a setback for labour relations in South Africa.
This could in turn feed into lower levels of investment, possibly lower growth, and a deteriorating fiscal balance.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved