Ultimatum fails to break deadlock
NUM president flees as angry miners demand clarity
MINE workers at Lonmin's Marikana mine in North West refused to bow to an ultimatum issued yesterday by management that they return to work underground or face dismissal.
The workers refused to listen to two negotiators, who spoke to them from inside police armoured vehicles. The negotiators were trying to persuade the miners to call off their illegal strike.
"The white man must come here to tell us that he is increasing our salaries," shouted one of the miners, adding that "the mines are their forefathers' wealth".
The negotiators - whose identities could not be established because they remained in the armoured vehicle - were told by the miners to bring mine management to address them.
The workers, mostly rock drillers, have been on an an illegal strike since last Friday. They are demanding that their salaries be increased from R4,000 to R12,500.
At least 10 people, including two police officers, have been killed since the strike began.
The workers - who are largely members of the newly formed Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and their rivals from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) - stood in unison contrary to the belief that they are at war with each other.
The absence of national leaders from both unions until now, has rendered the workers leaderless and uncontrollable.
The workers camp daily on top of a nearby mountain and take turns, in small groups, to go to their hostels.
Police confined the media contingent into a restricted area, and workers, who were armed with sticks, spears and pangas, refused to speak to journalists.
A worker, identified only as Ndzuza insisted that they were peaceful; "All we want is a wage increase."
It appears that the workers are unaware that their unions entered into a deal with Lonmin last year for a two-yearly increase.
Police spokesman Captain Dennis Adraio said the huge police contingent was meant to keep the situation peaceful.
- In an apparent attempt to break the deadlock, Num president Senzeni Zokwane and leaders of Amcu arrived to speak to the workers.
Zokwane, who wanted to address the workers from inside an armoured vehicle, was told to talk face to face, but he left.