x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

South Africa leader vows to act on miners' strike deaths

More than 60,000 miners were not working yesterday though it was unclear how many support the strike to demand a monthly take-home pay of Dh5,500 - and how many are frightened by intimidation and death threats if they report for duty.

CAPE TOWN // South Africa's president warned yesterday that his government would act on the growing mining unrest hitting the platinum and gold sectors, which he said was "not acceptable".

More than 60,000 miners were not working yesterday though it was unclear how many support the strike to demand a monthly take-home pay of Dh5,500 - and how many are frightened by intimidation and death threats if they report for duty.

"I have engaged with the ministers concerned to discuss how do we deal with this issue and very very soon we will be able to let the public know because it can no longer be accepted," Jacob Zuma said.

It was Mr Zuma's first official comment since the labour troubles spread to global giant Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), which shut down five mines on Wednesday, and Gold Fields, where 15,000 workers are striking.

The trouble started on August 10 with a strike at a Lonmin gold mine, where 45 people have been killed including 34 shot by police on August 16. The most recent death emerged on Tuesday when a body was found with machete wounds to the head, police said.

Frustrations in the industry and shock over the bloodshed at a Lonmin have proved ripe political ground for Mr Zuma's enemies, such as Julius Malema, who was expelled from the president's ruling African National Congress (ANC).

"You know that it is not just the miners striking, it is also some people of some description who are going there to instigate miners to operate in a particular way," Mr Zuma said.

"It cannot be accepted, and therefore we are looking into that. We are going to be acting very soon."

Mr Zuma did not mention Mr Malema by name and gave no details on what actions would be taken.

The recent action has also seen workers move outside of formal labour relations structures to take their demands directly to mine bosses.

"The worker demands for better wages can and should be addressed within the country's labour relations framework," said Mr Zuma, who has appointed a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate violence relating to the strike.

"The illegal strikes, the incitement and intimidation will not assist workers. Instead, it will make them and the country worse off."