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President declares week of mourning after Lonmin bloodbath

By Sibongile Khumalo | Aug 20, 2012 | COMMENTS [ 67 ]

Striking mineworkers say they are going to be back on the mountain today

Platinum giant Lonmin on Sunday ordered employees at a South African mine where police killed 34 people to return to work, but miners remained defiant as a week of national mourning was declared.

The London-listed company issued a final ultimatum to staff to end their wildcat stayaway three days after the worst episode of police violence since apartheid, as President Jacob Zuma declared a week of national mourning.

Lonmin said the call was “a last opportunity to return to work” for employees taking part in a strike stemming from a conflict between rival unions that had already claimed 10 lives and shut down production before escalating into Thursday’s bloodshed.

“Employees could therefore be dismissed if they fail to heed the final ultimatum,” warned the world’s number three platinum producer.

But workers who have been on strike at the Marikana mine since August 10 pledged to press on with their wage demands, and said the demand to return to work was “an insult” to colleagues who were gunned down by police.

“Expecting us to go back is like an insult. Many of our friends and colleagues are dead, then they expect us to resume work. Never,” said worker Zachariah Mbewu.

“Some are in prison and hospitals. [On Monday] we are going back to the mountain (protest site), not underground, unless management gives us what we want.” 

Lonmin set a Monday deadline for striking employees to return to work.

That will coincide with the start of a week of national mourning announced Sunday by Zuma. Flags will be lowered to half mast and an official day for nationwide memorial services held on Thursday.

“The nation is in shock and in pain. We must this week reflect on the sanctity of human life and the right to life as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic,” said Zuma.

The week will commemorate recent victims of violence, with Zuma singling out the Marikana carnage.

“We must avoid finger-pointing and recrimination. We must unite against violence from whatever quarter. We must reaffirm our belief in peace, stability and order and in building a caring society free of crime and violence,” he said.

The violence at the mine stems from a conflict between the powerful National Union of Mineworkers and the upstart Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which is calling for a tripling of wages.

Thursday’s crackdown left 34 dead, 78 wounded and 259 detained, and boosted the death toll to 44 after the 10 earlier deaths, including two police officers.

The violent police action has drawn parallels to the brutality seen under apartheid and sparked debate over the living conditions faced by miners, who voiced indignation at Lonmin’s ultimatum.

“Are they also going to fire the ones who are in hospitals and lying in mortuaries?” asked Thapelo Modima.

“It is better to be fired anyway because we are suffering, our lives won’t change. Lonmin does not care about our well-being, they have so far refused to hear us out, only sending police to kill us.” 

Workers say they are waiting to hear from mine bosses, whose latest ultimatum Sunday was an extension of a previous order to return.

“We won’t return to work unless they listen to our demands of salary increases,” said underground supervisor Fezile Magxaba.

“People have died, we are angry. If we return it will be like they died in vain,” he said while doing his laundry at a communal tap.

Churches in the impoverished informal informal settlements surrounding the mine held intimate services on Sunday.

Relatives of the missing mineworkers milled outside the mine’s hospital to check if their loved ones had been admitted there, had been arrested or were among the dead.

Police have claimed self-defence and several probes have been launched, including Zuma announcing a judicial commission of inquiry. - Sapa-AFP

COMMENTS [ 67 ]

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Please before you write you comment did some of research on mining industrial. i would like to clarify something to you guys, those people who work as drill operator they are important in mining because the drill under dagereous conditions put they life in dager everyday not one day and lonmin pay them 4000 is insult. if u said people should be educated who will drill underground and make money dont be stupid not all of us will be aducated we will never be the same but not mean we must be undermine while we do the job pay you salary evereyday. those drill operator if they dont drill there is no production and you who sit in the office you will loose the job.Lonmin mining company dont have respect for their employees.

Aug 20, 2012 2:40 | 0 replies

Will the mourning bring changes, such days must be used for interference in this matter to help both parties to reach better agreement.

Aug 20, 2012 9:49 | 0 replies

Bizzabo - Yeah, progress is being made. But, in alot of areas we are also going backwards. All good about the doctors, but what about the scientists and engineers?

Aug 20, 2012 9:44 | 0 replies

But life has to go on guys, from a production point of view the mine has got production capacity agreements with its clients and they have to adhere to that. We know lives were lost but the world cannot stop. As it is they are on a no-work-no-pay basis and this is severely affecting their meagre salaries. What AMCU is doing is just publicity seeking and a recruitment drive at the expense of other peoples lives.

Aug 20, 2012 9:41 | 0 replies

Mourning... This should of never happened. The unions and shop stewards should of never allowed it to escalate to such degrees. The loss of human life is sad, but mourning is not needed action is needed against the parties who started it all. Investigations into the situation disbandment and sentences for those in the unions that started it all. Good luck to the families who have lost loved ones do not let their deaths be in vain

Aug 20, 2012 9:41 | 0 replies

Sinudeity_

we are not doing enought but there is progress, minister Motsoaledi wants to increase the number of students going to cuba to be educated as doctors isn't he?

Aug 20, 2012 9:38 | 0 replies

MommaC

they do a lot especially in the field of community development and social and sustainable development, howevwer they still need to do more with regards to their employess

Aug 20, 2012 9:36 | 0 replies

RobinH
DJWinner. No need to test you at all. You are 100% predictable. I just needed to get my daily lesson in reasonable discussion, and what better teacher than yourself.
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The problem here is that you are protecting colonists because they are of a same skin colour as you....

Aug 20, 2012 9:32 | 0 replies

Bizzabo

Unfortunately, the law isn't always implemented. We have lovely laws but the monitoring and enforcement of them often leave a lot to be desired.

I wasn't aware of how much the mines do contribute. It is nice to be able to put it all in perspective so that a more balanced view can come out. Sometimes the media (and others) spend so much time trying to portray them as some kind of Boogieman that it is difficult to get the whole picture

Aug 20, 2012 9:31 | 0 replies

DJWinner. No need to test you at all. You are 100% predictable. I just needed to get my daily lesson in reasonable discussion, and what better teacher than yourself.

Aug 20, 2012 9:27 | 0 replies

that wud never bring the lifes of the beloved dead ones, so Zuma is incompetent on this task assinged to him and dis is simple, why cant he resign to avoid further embarrasment,,,evrytym in SA, ppl shud die whn they demand to their entitled demands

Aug 20, 2012 9:26 | 0 replies