Business, Economics and Jobs

South Africa announces crackdown on mine violence


Thousands of striking workers singing and carrying sticks march on a South African mine in Marikana on Sepember 5, 2012, as police were accused of shooting miners in cold blood during a crackdown that killed 34. Armoured police trucks and two police helicopters kept watch as around 3,000 miners arrived at the entrance of a shaft owned by the world's number three platinum producer Lomin where a deadly strike is now in its fourth week.



JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The South African government today announced a crackdown on the violence that has rocked the country's mining industry, warning it would arrest anyone in an illegal gathering.

Wildcat strikes and protests have interrupted production at several gold and platinum mines in South Africa, the continent's largest economy. The strikes have spread since police shot dead 34 striking miners at the Lonmin-owned Marikana mine on August 16.

Some miners wanting to return to work have faced intimidation and threats from strikers armed with weapons including machetes and clubs.

Mining giant Anglo American suspended operations Wednesday at its Rustenburg platinum mines, saying it had to "protect the safety and security of its employees."

More from GlobalPost: Marikana: South Africa's perfect storm

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said the government will no longer tolerate illegal gatherings, carrying of weapons, and threats and intimidation.

“It appears now that the mining industry is at stake," Radebe said during a press briefing in Pretoria attended by top government and security officials.

“Those who want to go to work must be allowed to do so without any intimidation,” he said.

But Radebe said thew new measures did not amount to a state of emergency.

"It can't be a normal thing that even after the tragedy of Marikana people continue to die, people continue to be hacked to death," Nathi Mthethwa, the country's police minister, said at the briefing.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said the continuing labor unrest was damaging the country's economy.

"It undermines confidence in the South African economy, and if we undermine confidence, we undermine investment," Gordhan said. “We all need to work together as South Africans to stop what is going on."

Also today, workers at the Marikana platinum mine rejected a pay offer from management, saying it was far below the 12,500 rand salary (about $1,500) they are demanding.

Lonmin had proposed a pay rise of about 900 rand a month; miners currently earn between 4,000 and 5,000 rand.

More from GlobalPost: South Africa's Julius Malema calls for national mine strike (VIDEO)