PRETORIA — The leader of a major protest by South African platinum miners called today for a national strike in the sector, deepening an industrial crisis that is evolving into the biggest threat to the ruling ANC since it came to power in 1994.
“On Sunday, we are starting with a general strike here in Rustenburg,” demonstration leader Mametlwe Sebei told several thousand workers at a soccer stadium in the heart of the platinum belt near Rustenburg, 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Johannesburg.
The action was designed to “bring the mining companies to their knees”, he said, to mild applause from the crowd, which was armed with sticks and machetes.
Despite the weapons, the strikers insisted their push for a sharp hike in wages was peaceful – even after the August 16 police shooting of 34 protesters at Lonmin’s nearby Marikana platinum mine.
“There should be no blood,” one placard read.
The wave of labor unrest rocking Africa’s biggest economy kicked off with a violent strike at rival Impala Platinum in January and has since spiraled beyond the control of the government and unions into a grass-roots rebellion by blacks who have seen little improvement in their lives since apartheid ended 18 years ago.
Most men at the soccer stadium said they worked for top producer Anglo American Platinum, commonly known as Amplats, which had to suspend operations its four Rustenburg mines yesterday after they were blockaded by chanting marchers.
They also insisted they would not return to work until top management – including Cynthia Carroll, chief executive of Amplats parent company Anglo American – came to listen to their gripes and introduced a basic pay hike to US $1,500 a month, more than double their current salary. (Reuters)