Thousands march as Lonmin death toll rises
Marikana — Several thousand miners met on a rocky hillside to protest their work conditions at the Lonmin [JSE:LON] platinum mine on Tuesday, as a middle-aged man lay dead less than 100 meters away where violence had already killed nine other people, AP reported on Tuesday.
The man had been bludgeoned to death near the mine outside of Marikana, about 70km northwest of Johannesburg. It was unclear who killed the man and the people around him would not give any details.
Police drove through the area earlier on Tuesday, pausing only to look at the gathered miners from a distance. They then drove off.
Reuters reports that the world’s third largest platinum producer shut down its South African operations on Tuesday and its shares tumbled as the violence continued unabated.
Two policemen and two security guards were among those killed in the clashes from Friday through to Monday.
It was the deadliest violence so far in a union membership turf war between South Africa’s dominant National Union of Mineworkers (Num) and the relatively new Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).
Executives at Lonmin said all its shafts across the South African platinum belt were closed down with only essential services such as ventilation operating.
“Until the place is safe we don’t want to talk about production,” Lonmin Executive Vice President Barnard Mokwena told a press briefing at Marikana.
Lonmin shares dropped almost 5% in London and 4% in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
Outside the mine in Marikana protesters laid razorwire to reinforce gates that surround the mills, according to an AP reporter.
Hundreds more people carrying pipes and sticks walked from nearby shantytowns to join the protests, as a police helicopter circled overhead.
Earlier on Tuesday, angry miners attacked journalists in vehicles at the site. The miners hit cars with sticks and pipes.
Protests began on Friday at the mine when workers walked off the job over a salary dispute, Lonmin said in a statement.
The platinum sector is grappling with declining world prices for the precious metal and a surge in union clashes in South Africa, home to 80% of known reserves.
Complaints that the Num, which remains a buttress of political and electoral support for the ANC, is not defending the interests of its rank and file have put the longstanding labour grouping under siege.
Aggressive new unions have been poaching Num members in often violent turf wars. Lonmin executives said AMCU now had 21% of the company’s 28 000-strong South African workforce as members.
- AP, Reuters
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