Strike left 44 people dead, many killed by police in the deadliest violence by security forces since apartheid [EPA]
Miners at South Africa’s Lonmin-run platinum mine in Marikana are beginning to return to work after a strike in which 44 people were killed, many by police.
Al Jazeera’s Tania Page, reporting from Rustenburg near Marikana in the North West province, said on Monday 13 per cent of the 3,000 miners had returned to work to heed the new deadline issued by management.
Those who refuse to resume work will be sacked, said our correspondent.
“We have only seen a handful of miners arriving, but we did see a busload go past here,” said Page.
“One of the things to remember here is that while this deadline has been given by Lonmin, over the weekend they did back away from that threat to fire these workers.”
She said the government and religious leaders were mediating in talks between unions and Lonmin management to resolve the pay dispute which triggered the strike.
Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s president, is expected to face some tough questioning over the violence when he appears before the national executive committee of his ruling African National Congress in the capital Pretoria on Monday.
Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Johannesburg, said
Police on patrol
Police patrolled the area around the mine as workers trickled back to work with officers frequently questioning people walking in groups.
Armed private security guards controlled access to the mine where the morning underground shift started at 5am (0300 GMT).
“I came to see if it is safe to return to work. Police have advised us not to mill around in groups around the mine, they say it is for our safety, ” said Johannes Ndebele outside a shaft entrance.
“I decided to return to work because the strike has not been successful, but other people back in the hostel want to continue with the strike. They say they want money first,” he added.
Operations at the Marikana mine, the world’s third-largest platinum producer, ground to a halt on August 10 when 3,000 rock drill operators started a vigil on a hill, demanding a 300-per cent pay rise.
The strike degenerated into violent clashes between workers, leading to the deaths of 10 people, including two policemen.
On August 17 police called in to end the strike opened fire on the miners killing 34 people.
Although Lonmin said it was expecting a high number workers to resume work, our correspondent said there was “something of a standoff”, adding that many workers were still demanding $1,500-a-month salary.
The government has apologised for the violence and instituted a commission of inquiry that is expected to come up with a report in four months.
Sue Vey, a spokeswoman for Lonmin, said: “We are quite upbeat. We are hopeful we will get more workers.”
Production at the mines has not yet resumed, with Lonmin saying mining operations would restart once it has secured “sufficient numbers” of workers and safety has been ensured.
“No production is happening. Yesterday’s shift was all about making the place safe, cleaning and briefings,” Vey told the AFP news agency.
The company is likely to battle to meet its annual production target of 750,000 ounces.