MAC: Mines and Communities

"Peace" still eludes South Africa following the Marikana massacre

Published by MAC on 2012-09-04
Source: Statement,

Just over a fortnight has passed since the worst example of South African state violence against its citizens in the post-apartheid period. See: Counting the Costs of South Africa's Marikana Massacre

Although no further such atrocities have been reported, it's doubtful that anything approaching  "peace", let alone harmony, will soon return to the region.

UK-listed Lonmin, whose failure to address worker grievances lay at the heart of the recent "uprising", refuses to discuss wage demands until production resumes, or to make an undertaking to re-employ the striking miners.

In fact, according to the Associated Press (see below), many of these workers were theselves accused of murdering victims of the police firings on August 16th, although the charges were temporarily withdrawn last weekend.

Meanwhile, some 12,000 employees are also reported to have downed tools at Gold Fields' KDC mine, on Johannesburg's West Rand.

Peace talks hoped to turn page on Lonmin troubles

IndustriALL statement

30 August 2012

All efforts are now pushing towards a peace accord at the Marikana platinum mine, with 50 negotiators filling the neighbouring Rustenburg town hall under mediation of labour ministry officials.

The widely reported worst violence in South Africa in the post-apartheid era saw police shoot 34 miners at the Marikana mining complex on 16 August after 10 people died in fighting during the strike.

This week fewer than 8 per cent of the 28,000 workers at the mine are working, with union leadership's call for a return to work ignored. Peace talks will continue and hopefully reach agreement tomorrow, 31 August.

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant met with striking workers on 24 August and facilitated the 28 August peace talks meeting between Lonmin, organized labour, representatives of the striking workers, and churches.

The major obstacle to negotiations was the management's refusal to discuss wage demands before peace was restored to the mine and production restarted, while workers remain insistent that production would not be allowed to restart before their demand for a 300 per cent wage increase was met. The success of the peace talks hinges on the resolution of this question.

The return to work call is also hampered by the demand of the arrested mineworkers that they be granted bail without delay, and whether Lonmin will allow for these workers to return to work.

Advocate Lesego Mmusi representing the arrested mineworkers argued in court against further delay in the bail application for the detained miners, stating that if the government was willing to wait for the commission of inquiry before charging police, detained miners should be awarded the same privilege.

It is unclear whether Lonmin will allow the detained miners to return to work. It has since emerged that an autopsy has revealed that many of the murdered workers were shot in the back and hence the call for an independent inquiry.

Calls for an independent inquiry are gaining momentum as many feel that the judicial inquiry does not have a broad enough scope to address root causes of the conflict and does not adequately address socio economic concerns of miners and affected communities. Amongst the issues that these proponents are seeking to address is the issue of contract labour.

In line with a demand from NUM, the Minister of Mineral Resources, Susan Shabangu, has announced that centralized bargaining will be established for the platinum sector. This will address wage disparities for workers doing the same job in different mining companies, and the question of contract labour. About a third of the workforce in the platinum sector are contractor workers who earn by some estimates, about 60 per cent less than permanent workers.


IndustriALL Global Union
Telephone: + 41 22 308 5050
Telefax: + 41 22 308 5055
Geneva, Switzerland



South Africa drops Lonmin miners' murder charges

Cecilia Jamasmie

2 September 2012

South African prosecutors have temporarily withdrawn murder charges against the 270 miners accused Thursday of killing 34 striking colleagues shot dead by police at the platinum miner Lonmin's Marikana mine, but warned they could be recharged when inquiries were complete.

According to the BBC, Nomqcobo Jiba, the acting director of public prosecutions, said all detained miners would be freed with a warning, providing police could verify their home addresses.

Sunday's announcement comes as a result of increasing criticism from political parties, trade unions, civil society and legal experts.

In a news conference held Sunday, the National Union of Metal Workers called for the suspension of the police task force "that executed the Marikana massacre."

The union's central committee "calls on the commission to find out and make public who, between the minister of police and the national police commissioner, gave orders to shoot workers with live bullets when they peacefully assembled on that fateful mountain," the union's secretary general Irvin Jim was quoted as saying by The Citizen.

Police had said most of the miners died when officers opened fire as the strikers charged them. Witnesses and journalists who have examined the scene have questioned the police's account.

Talks to resolve the dispute continue at the mine, which has been shut for the past three weeks.

Macabre twist: Lonmin protesters who survived massacre face murder charges

Cecilia Jamasmie

30 August 2012

Two weeks after South African police opened fire on a group of 3,000 workers and killed 34 people protesting at the platinum miner Lonmin's Marikana mine, prosecutors are bringing murder charges against a unexpected group of suspects: the miners themselves.

The odd twist, which may further infuriate locals already shocked and angered by the police action, came as the men appeared in court close to the mine charged with public violence over the clashes on August 16, reports Associated Press.

The nearly 270 miners arrested over this month's violent strikes are accused with the murders of those who were shot two weeks ago, as well as related charges for attempted murder of the 78 miners injured in the shooting.

The prosecutors also convinced the magistrate hearing the controversial case to postpone a bail hearing for the miners until September 6. With this, the workers will remain in custody in three police stations in the area until late next week.

Jay Surju, a South African lawyer, told the BBC that the charge the protesters are facing hails from the aparthied era, which the government used to quell dissent.

"This is a very outdated and infamous doctrine," Surju said.

Only yesterday Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey said conditions on the ground were "still peaceful." The situation, however, had a turn for the worse as the charges against the miners coincided with a report claiming that many of the victims were shot at close range or run over by police vehicles.

Police had said most of the miners died when officers opened fire as the strikers charged them. Witnesses and journalists who have examined the scene have questioned the police's account.

South African strikes spread, hit Gold Fields

Cecilia Jamasmie 

31 August 2012

Mining workers dissatisfaction in South Africa has now hit the country's second-largest gold producer, Gold Fields Ld., as about 12,000 employees downed tools at the KDC mine, on Johannesburg's West Rand.

Gold Fields said it has been granted an urgent interdict to end the illegal strike, allegedly over disagreements involving the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and related structures on the mine.

"The safety of our people is our first priority and we appeal to all stakeholders to continue to act with restraint and to find peaceful solutions to their differences," said in a statement Peter Turner, head of Gold Fields' South African operations. "It is important that we restore normality on the mine in a peaceful manner and as soon as possible."

Shares of Gold Fields fell nearly 6% percent, at 98 rand, their lowest level since July 20, as a consequence of the strike announcement.

This further escalation of labour frictions comes as a significant portion of South Africa's platinum production remains shut down as a result of violent industrial action at Lonmin's  Marikana mine, which some feared could spill over to gold producers.

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