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South African mine gives striking workers extended deadline

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 20th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Miners at a South African platinum mine have been given 24 hours to return to work without repercussions. "After consultations with various labor representatives today, the company [Lonmin PLC] can also announce that those illegal strikers who did not return to work this morning will not be dismissed and have been allowed an extra day in light of current circumstances," Lonmin mine said in a statement.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - These words ring hollow for many workers. Forty-four people have been killed in a week of violence as 259 arrested strikers have appeared in court for the first time.

"Expecting us to go back to work is like an insult  ... many of our friends and colleagues are dead," a striking miner at the scene said.

Lonmin had initially ordered miners to return to work last week. After the shootings, the mine changed the deadline to Monday, Sue Vey, a company spokesperson, said.

Lonmin reported that almost one-third of the 28 000-strong workforce reported for their morning shifts, adhering to the company's initial deadline and allowing Lonmin, one of the world's largest primary producers of platinum, to resume partial operations.

After a week of protests in which ten people were killed, 34 strikers at Lonmin's Marikana mine were shot down by police on Thursday. Police said they acted in self defense.

The violence has been described by some analysts as one of the worst displays of state violence since apartheid ended in 1994.

The 259 miners who were arrested after the deadly police crackdown have since appeared in the Ga-Rankuwa court in Pretoria on charges ranging from murder to public violence.

Magistrate Esau Bodigelo ruled that all the men should remain in custody. Their next hearing was set for August 27.

Those on strike said that they were not sure what to do. "Because we work as a majority, if the majority goes back to work tomorrow I'm going too," Vuyisile Mchiza, a miner says. He added that "if the majority is not going back to work tomorrow, I'm not going either because I won't be able to go to work while others are sitting grieving."

A few of the miners left a group meeting and returned to a hill top saying that they will stay there until the demands are met, but left after police told them to vacate the area.

"They are threatening to return to the hill top and to camp out there until their demands are met," said an Al Jazeera correspondent.

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