Amplats To Resume Work As S.Africa Police Get Tough

by
Reuters
Anglo American Platinum said it will resume work on Tuesday at its strike-hit Rustenburg operations, just days after South Africa's government launched a crackdown to disarm miners and end five weeks of labour unrest.

Amplats To Resume Work As S.Africa Police Get Tough

Anglo American Platinum said it will resume work on Tuesday at its strike-hit Rustenburg operations, just days after South Africa's government launched a crackdown to disarm miners and end five weeks of labour unrest.

Amplats, the world's top producer of the precious metal, suspended some of its operations this week after machete-wielding strikers marched on shafts near Rustenburg, 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Johannesburg.

"The situation in Rustenburg remains calm and our current intention is to resume operations on Tuesday morning, which will provide time for the government to implement further security measures," the company said in a statement on Sunday.

Following a government promise to get tough on miners, police raided a Lonmin Plc hostel early on Saturday and seized spears, machetes and other weapons from strikers.

President Jacob Zuma's government, after weeks of drawing accusations of responding too slowly, said on Friday it would clamp down on "illegal gatherings" and go after armed miners.

The army has also been asked to help the police.

"The army has been requested to render support to an operation that is being conducted by the South African Police Service, not in the riot control, but for a specific operation," Defence Ministry official Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga told Reuters on Saturday.

Police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse miners following the Saturday raid.

In Marikana, near Rustenburg, police last month shot 34 striking miners dead in a single day, the bloodiest police action in South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994. A total of 45 people have been killed in the unrest.

Sparked by the strike at a Lonmin mine in Marikana, the crisis has poisoned industrial relations in Africa's largest economy and choked platinum output. South Africa accounts for about 80 percent of the world's platinum production.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan told Reuters in an interview on Sunday there was no need yet to revise the outlook for fiscal performance in the 2012 budget plan, even if revenue has been lost from the unrest.

LONMIN PROMISES NEW APPROACH

Lonmin, due to resume talks on Monday with strikers who rejected a pay rise offer last week, on Sunday insisted it could not meet the workers' demands but promised a new approach in labour relations.

Acting Chief Executive Simon Scott said in an opinion piece published in the Sunday Times newspaper that the deaths of protesters had been a "wake-up call" for the company and it would improve discussions with strikers.

"For Lonmin, the starting point is to acknowledge that our company must go through a process of self-reflection," Scott said.

"What I can promise is that we are committed to playing our part. We have had our wake-up call, as has the rest of South Africa."

On Friday, workers at the mine dismissed the company's offer as way below the 12,500 rand ($1,500) a month sought by members of the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which is challenging the influence of the more established National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

Wage talks at Lonmin were expected to resume at 0800 GMT on Monday.

Scott, who has been acting chief executive while Ian Farmer has been on sick leave since last month, reiterated the company's position that the 12,500 would put thousands of jobs at risk and challenge the viability of the business.

It would cost the company 2.3 billion rand, he said.

Lonmin is offering increases of between 9 percent and 21 percent. In a statement on Sunday it denied a report by NUM that it had improved its key offer to rock drill operators, who are at the centre of the unrest.

The strikes have been seized on by Julius Malema, a rebel expelled from the ruling African National Congress who has become Zuma's most strident critic and who urged strikers to make mines "ungovernable".

South Africa's elite police unit, the Hawks, said on Sunday it was investigating a case against Malema, opened by trade union Solidarity earlier this month, of incitement of violence and intimidation.

"That case has been referred to us and we are currently investigating," Hawks spokesman MacIntosh Polela said.

"We are not going to narrow it to Marikana. We are just going to look for evidence of this incitement, aspects of it are going definitely to be Marikana."