S Africa – workers drift back to work at Lonmin mine

Reuters Africa

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Just over a quarter of workers had returned on Monday to the platinum mine in South Africa where 44 men were killed last week in violent clashes, after mine owner Lonmin threatened to sack about 3,000 striking workers if they did not turn up.

Striking mine workers sing as they hold weapons outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, August 16, 2012. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A panel of investigators appointed by President Jacob Zuma is also expected at the sprawling Marikana mine about 100 kilometres (60 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, where 34 miners armed with spears, machetes and handguns were gunned down in a hail of police fire that brought back memories of apartheid-era violence.

Ten people were killed prior to the police shooting, including a shop steward from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), who was hacked to death.

“Attendance has started slowly but is now up to 27 percent. But it is unclear if the striking workers are returning,” a Lonmin spokesperson told Reuters. About 3,000 striking workers at the world’s No.3 platinum producer face an ultimatum to show up on Monday or be sacked.

Police spokesman Dennis Adriao said there had been no reported incidents on Monday morning.

“There is a high police presence and visibility,” he said.

The strike was sparked by a spreading battle for membership between the NUM and the upstart Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which has accused the NUM of caring more about politics and personal enrichment than workers in mine shafts.

Hundreds of police have camped out at the mine, patrolling in small convoys of vehicles and conducting aerial surveillance by helicopter.   Read more…

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