SAfrica: Fired miners vow to fight to the death

Associated Press Modified: October 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm •  Published: October 6, 2012
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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A leader for striking miners at Anglo American Platinum mines in South Africa on Saturday said they would make it difficult for the company to hire new miners after the company fired 12,000 striking workers this week.

Evans Ramokga threatened that Amplats would only hire new employees "over our dead bodies."

"Nobody will come and operate these mines. If there any people we feel must go, it is them, not us," he said, referring to the bosses of Amplats, a subsidiary of the London-listed Anglo Platinum.

The world's top producer of platinum said it fired the workers for failing to attend disciplinary hearings in the aftermath of an unlawful strike that brought its Rustenburg operations to a halt. And Mpumi Sithole, a spokeswoman for Amplats, said Saturday that the decision to fire the workers is final.

More 20,000 mineworkers at Amplats have been staging a wildcat strike since Sept. 12, demanding 12,500 rand (about $1,500) in take-home pay. Amplats managers said from the start that the strike is unlawful. On Friday, hours after renewed confrontations between armed police and striking miners on a hill near Amplats' Rustenburg mines, the company moved to dismiss the workers via text or email messages.

"Despite the company's repeated calls for employees to return to work, we have continued to experience attendance levels of less than 20 (percent)," Amplats said in a statement Friday. "Currently four of the company's mining operations in the Rustenburg area have insufficient staff to operate and only essential services are being carried out at those mines."

The labor unrest plaguing South Africa's mining sector started in August when workers at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine staged a wildcat strike that led to violence which left about 46 dead, including a police shooting that killed 34 miners. That and other violence during the Marikana mine strikes is now the subject of an official inquiry even as unrest spreads, leading to renewed fears of violence.