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Mine unrest: Zuma breaks the silence

Sep 13 2012 17:01 AFP
mining unrest

A striking mine worker armed with a knife joins others armed with pangas, knobkierries, and spears in a march to a smelter plant at Lonmin’s Platinum Mine near Rustenburg. (Denis Farrell, AP)

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Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma warned on Thursday that his government will act on the growing mining unrest hitting the platinum and gold sectors, which he said was "not acceptable".

South Africa has been hit by strike action at mines since a militant stayaway that has killed 45 people began at platinum giant Lonmin's [JSE:LON] Marikana mine on August 10.

"I have engaged with the ministers concerned to discuss how do we deal with this issue and very very soon we will be able to let the public know because it can no longer be accepted," Zuma told lawmakers.

It was Zuma's first official comment since the labour troubles spread to global giant Anglo Platinum [JSE:AMS] (Amplats), which shut down five mines on Wednesday, and Gold Fields [JSE:GFI], where 15 000 workers are striking.

Frustrations in the industry and shock over the bloodshed at Lonmin, where police shot dead 34 people, have proved ripe political ground for Zuma's enemies, such as firebrand Julius Malema, who was booted from the president's ruling African National Congress (ANC).

"You know that it is not just the miners striking, it is also some people of some description who are going there to instigate miners to operate in a particular way," Zuma said.

"It cannot be accepted, and therefore we are looking into that. We are going to be acting very soon."

Zuma did not mention Malema by name and gave no details on what actions would be taken.

After being expelled from the ANC earlier this year, Zuma's nemesis Malema has been criss-crossing troubled mines to fire up workers and urge them to hold monthly strikes.

The recent action has also seen workers move outside of formal labour relations structures to take their demands directly to mine bosses.

"The worker demands for better wages can and should be addressed within the country's labour relations framework," said Zuma, who has appointed a judicial commission of inquiry to probe the Marikana violence.

"The illegal strikes, the incitement and intimidation will not assist workers. Instead, it will make them and the country worse off."

Amplats said it suspended production after workers were intimidated with the threat of violence.

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