20 Sep 2012

SA police disperse more mine protesters

10:35 pm on 20 September 2012

South African police have fired tear-gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters near a mine run by the world's biggest platinum producer, Anglo American Platinum.

Within hours of a rival company, Lonmin, agreeing to pay rises of up to 22%, workers at nearby mines called for similar raises and took protest action.

"We want management to meet us as well now," an organiser for the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) at Impala Platinum, the second biggest platinum producer, told Reuters.

"We want 9,000 rand a month as a basic wage instead of the roughly 5,000 rand we are getting," said the organiser, who declined to be named fearing recriminations from the firm.

Six weeks of industrial action triggered by a Lonmin strike has claimed 46 lives and rocked Africa's largest economy.

The death toll from the unrest rose to 46 when a woman died several days after being struck by a rubber bullet, a clergyman who has been counselling striking miners, told Reuters.

The gold sector has also not been spared, with 15,000 miners on an illegal strike.

Economists say Lonmin may have set a precedent for wage settlements that could spread through an economy already saddled with globally uncompetitive costs.

Jubilant workers at Lonmin's Marikana mine, 100 kilometres northwest of Johannesburg, saw the wage deal as a victory for AMCU over the dominant National Union of Mineworkers, an ally of the ruling African National Congress.

President Jacob Zuma expressed relief at the deal after intense criticism from the opposition and media of the government's handling of the crisis - including in the aftermath of the police killing of 34 Marikana miners on 16 August.

The Marikana miners are now returning to work.