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South Africa’s striking miners to march to Pretoria

Published on 03/03/2014

The hardline South African union leading a six-week-old strike that has halted most production at top platinum mines on Monday announced plans to march on the seat of government.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), whose tens of thousands of members launched the strike for higher wages on January 23, plan to hand a message to President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria on Thursday.

The memorandum will also be sent to the mines and labour ministers, as well to the owners of the world’s three biggest platinum mining firms.

Details of the planned action will be revealed at a news conference on Tuesday, a union official said in an email.

The world’s three top platinum firms — Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin — affected by the strike claim they have collectively lost hundreds of millions of dollars.

The government has mediated stop-start wage talks between the union and mine owners over the past week, but the strike shows no sign of letting up.

The union has vowed to achieve its goal of a $1,125 (820 euro) minimum monthly wage by whatever “means necessary”.

The companies say they cannot meet the union’s demand, which would amount to wage increases of up to 150 percent.

They are instead offering staggered increases of seven to nine percent over each of the next three years.

Meanwhile a new platinum union, the Workers’ Association Union (WAU), was launched at the weekend and is planning to meet the mining bosses with suggestions on how to end the strike, the domestic SAPA news agency said Monday.

“We want to present a proposal to rescue the situation,” said Elphas Ngoepe, secretary general of the new union.

Although the strike had been spearheaded by AMCU, non-AMCU members have found it difficult to report for work because of reported intimidation from the striking workers.

The new union’s leaders reportedly broke away from AMCU’s rival the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

South Africa holds around 80 percent of the world’s known platinum reserves.