SA's mining unrest spreads

2012-08-22 12:21

Rustenburg - Labour unrest in South Africa’s platinum belt spread on Wednesday, raising concerns that anger over low wages and poor living conditions could generate fresh violence after 34 striking miners were shot dead by police last week.

The strike that started last week at Lonmin’s Marikana mine has pushed up platinum prices and stoked worries about investing in Africa’s biggest economy, where chronic unemployment and massive income disparity threaten social stability.

The world’s top platinum producer, Anglo Platinum [JSE:AMS], said on Wednesday it had received a demand for a pay increase from its South African workers, while a trade union said miners at Royal Bafokeng Platinum’s Rasimone site were blocked from reporting to work by colleagues.

The price of platinum leapt to its highest since early May on Wednesday, driven by concern about supply from South Africa, which holds 80% of the known reserves of the metal, which is used in jewellery and for catalytic converters in cars.  

Spot platinum rose by as much as 1.5% to touch $1 524.49 an ounce, trading at $1 521.75 by 08:41 GMT.

The labour troubles were touched off by a violent turf war between labour unions at the Marikana mine.

Ten people had been killed last week before police opened fire on striking miners on Thursday, shooting dead another 34 in the worst such bloodshed since the end of apartheid white rule in 1994. President Jacob Zuma has ordered an inquiry.

“Over the past couple of years, South Africa has witnessed a number of extremely violent strikes and protests partly due to worsening poverty, increasing social inequality, low wages, and poor social service delivery,” US-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Wednesday.

It urged the government inquiry to address the underlying social and economic issues fuelling the unrest.

Workers have trickled back to Lonmin’s Marikana mine this week, but most have stayed away for fear of being caught in the conflict between the long-established National Union of Mineworkers (Num) and the militant breakaway Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

Zuma, who has appointed a panel to investigate the violence, has tried to reassure investors their money is safe while appealing to all sides to end the violence.

Zuma’s political foes have been piling pressure on the president. They accuse him and the ANC, which has placed several former Num members in senior government positions, of adopting poor policing policies and of not caring enough about workers labouring deep underground.

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  • larry.piggott1 - 2012-08-22 12:33

    Time to Mechanize.

      denis.gomo - 2012-08-23 04:14

      Time to buy a fire extinguisher...when the country really starts burning, you can keep the flames at bay...

      denis.gomo - 2012-08-23 04:16

      Time to lead - real leadership is needed now more than ever...

  • sidney.gilroy - 2012-08-22 12:36

    Here comes the end. Goodbye ANC. Thank you for trying. Amcu is nothing more than an Anti-Zuma faction headed by Malema and his cronies. Very clever of them to hi-jack the party this way...very sad that you couldn`t contain it in Marikana. The moment you call in the army...this will spread to every township in the country. Dark days are here my friends.

  • hermann.hanekom - 2012-08-22 12:38

    Now SAPS remember the expert advice from arm chair and political crowd controllers - confront them with shield, batons and teargas. Be sure I will try and attend all the SAPS funerals.

  • kevin.pitzer - 2012-08-22 12:38

    We do not need further loss of life and we need interfering politics to keep away from the industry.The President needs to urgently speak with the people calling for calm.It will take time and patience to undo the mess created through this unfortunte situation.

  • shelley.vorster.9 - 2012-08-22 12:45

    AS per the news y/day - Our feul price hike is being spiked by all the strikes & protests.... Can these people NOT see how they are Killing this country - WAKE Up PLEASE. Very soon you will be striking for lower feul prices - just think higher feul means taxi fees go up AS WELL. Besides, if you are NOT at work and NOT working, the mins is not making money - so just where do you think the extra wages must come from...

  • dewalds3 - 2012-08-22 12:53

    'worst such bloodshed since the end of apartheid WHITE rule in 1994' - That would be Boipatong, Bisho and the mostly IFP members killed in KZN in 1992. Everybody knows who the killers and instigators were. News24 - is that a fair way of presenting the facts?

      johnny.coetzee.3 - 2012-08-22 14:50

      Know what you mean. The pre-1994 "SAP" did their best to keep ANC and IFP appart. There were MANY killings... I saw this is Alex. Very poor reporting from N24 !!!

  • theo.schoeman.71 - 2012-08-22 12:57

    Welcome to Africa

  • jacqueline.engelbrecht.54 - 2012-08-22 13:03

    Those KFC chickens are coming home to roost....

  • sean.bezuidenhout - 2012-08-22 13:08

    The bottom line is that a certain proportion of those miners are completely uneducated, to a point that they charge a battalion of fully armed police with guns and pangas expecting to kill and overwhelm them??! There is no rationale between any of there thick skulls (Including the Unions) and there likening of a wage demand means they are entitled to kill, maim and intimidate as they please. Reports over the days have had mourners blaming the whites, we have Malema collecting political points against the brain dead. The police are wrong in defending themselves. Everything is just beyond any normal persons fathom of understanding. As a outsider I am just left scratching my head in pure disbelief in what is unfolding its almost like we are going back into the dark ages and the dumb and stupid are now standing and trying to overwhelm the clever with there dumbness. *SIGH*

      hennie.vanjaarsveld.12 - 2012-08-23 09:23

      you forgot to mention the muti making them invisible and if shot only water will com out of the hole lol does an idiot like that even know how much money 12500 is?malema is behind this planned it so after it all he rocks up there and his the hero mean whil he has the blood of 44 people on his hands.where terrorists before 1994 and in 2012 nothing has changed

  • TawwaTienie - 2012-08-23 01:02

    Protestors and criminals like to govern South Africa. How many of these are from African countries, and illegal?

  • maureen.churchill.9 - 2012-08-24 09:27

    Keep Malema out of the mining issues, he is a bigmouth he will have all the mines conjuring up grievances,he will then rush in there and 'sort it out' and become Malema superman. Surely government can see the writing on the wall. Is he perhaps forming his own party watch this man he is too clever for his own good.

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