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S.African militant union extends olive branch to rival

A militant South African union has put aside its differences with a rival labour group to call for peace as killings continue on the first anniversary of police’s Marikana massacre of mine workers.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) invited the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) to its commemoration ceremony Friday, which will honour 34 miners shot dead by police at platinum producer Lonmin’s Marikana mine on August 16, 2012.

They will also commemorate the life of the latest victim of South Africa’s clashes between miners and the authorities, a local NUM leader who was gunned down on Monday.

AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa said he had contacted NUM leader Senzeni Zokwana “inviting him to be part (of the ceremony), and join me in Marikana… on Friday, to preach peace and demonstrate that workers’ unity is a strength.”

The two unions have struggled for dominance in the Rustenburg platinum belt of northwest South Africa since before the massacre, with AMCU members accusing the NUM of overly close ties with the government and mining companies.

At least 12 people linked to Lonmin’s Marikana mine have been killed over the past year, eight of them prominent union members, according to an AFP tally.

Dali Mpofu, the lawyer representing the survivors of last August’s shooting, said the NUM had been invited to Friday’s ceremony to deliver “a message of peace that clearly says the killings must stop immediately.”

Mpofu called on South Africans to observe a minute of silence at 1400 GMT, the moment police unleashed a hail of bullets on a crowd of striking miners on August 16 last year.

The memorial will mourn those who died in the bloodbath, as well as 12 others — including two policemen and two security guards — murdered in the week leading up to the shooting.

President Jacob Zuma launched a judicial inquiry into the killings, but a year on, it has yet to conclude.