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Platinum producer fires striking SAfrican miners

Associated Press Modified: October 5, 2012 at 11:45 am •  Published: October 5, 2012

South Africa's mining industry has been in turmoil since August, when mineworkers at a platinum mine staged a wildcat strike that led to police shooting and killing 34 workers in Marikana, shocking a nation that had not witnessed such a level of violence since the end of apartheid.

There seems to be no end in sight to the labor unrest, which has spread to coal and iron ore mines as well as to the road freight sector. Some 20,000 truckers demanding a 22 percent pay raise are currently staging a strike that threatens the supply of gas and groceries. Negotiations between striking truckers and the Road Freight Association "broke down" Thursday night, according to Vincent Masoga, a spokesman for the South African Transport and Allied Workers' Union, which called the strike.

Masoga said the union would keep the strike going until negotiations resume. The Road Freight Employers Association, which has offered the truckers a pay increase of up to 8.5 percent, said Friday it had obtained a court order compelling the truckers' union to manage its strike in a way that avoids violence of the sort that has led to some trucks being set on fire.

"In essence, the order made it tougher on the unions to continue with irregular strike action," the Road Freight Association, which lost an application to block the strike from proceeding, said in a statement Friday.

The labor unrest has damaged South Africa's reputation as an investment destination. South Africa produces 75 percent of the world's platinum and is the No. 4 chrome producer and the fifth-biggest gold producer.

South African President Jacob Zuma, the target of criticism by mineworkers who see him as aloof to their concerns, said Thursday that the violence witnessed in the mining sector was proof that "a climate of constructive social dialogue" needs to be created in the country.

"We should not seek to portray ourselves as a nation that is perpetually fighting," Zuma told South Africa's Chamber of Commerce and Industry.