31 October 2012

South Africa: Workers Gathering After Amplats Protests

Johannesburg — Almost 2000 fired mineworkers were gathering around two Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) mines in Rustenburg on Wednesday morning as a reinstatement proposal stalled.

"There is no singing, no protesting. They are not unruly," said Warrant Officer Sam Tselanyane.

About 1500 people were gathering at Zakhele, a residential area near Amplats' Khusaleka mine, where a sub-station was set alight on Tuesday, and 300 more were gethering at the Komanani shaft.

Speaking by phone, Gaddafi Mdoda (SUBS: CORR), who is part of a committee representing striking workers disgruntled with their unions, said marches were not planned for Tuesday and that he had not been informed of a meeting with the company's management for talks to resolve the situation.

Amplats did not respond to requests for comments for most of Tuesday, then said it would issue a statement on Wednesday. On Wednesday morning, it said by e-mail a statement would come later.

On Tuesday, 13 protesters were arrested and an attempted murder charge was laid against a mine security guard after a protester was shot in a day of clashes between protesters and security forces.

The wounded man was taken to hospital. A policeman was also treated after a stone hit him in the face, said Tselanyane.

A court date for the 13 arrested was not yet known and the guard had not been arrested or taken in for questioning by early on Wednesday morning.

On Saturday, Amplats said it had held discussions with recognised unions the National Union of Mineworkers, UASA, Solidarity and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, and representatives of the strike committee on an offer to reinstate 12,000 fired workers.

In a statement, it said the offer to return to work by Tuesday October 30 had been "accepted by all the worker representatives, the recognised unions and the Workers' Committee and they have committed to communicate the offer to their members today [October 27]".

Mdoda said this was not what had happened.

There had been a meeting where the proposal was made by the company and representatives had left to discuss it with the workers.

"Before we reached Rustenburg town, people were angry about why we have done this thing without consulting them, because the radio was saying this and this," said Mdoda.

"It seems like they were saying we, as the committee, had agreed with unions and management without their consent. It looks like a betrayal, though we did not agree on anything."

Workers wanted to have a choice and to be able to debate and decide on what was on the table, he said.

Mdoda said that even he, as an Amplats employee, might have wanted to accept the reinstatement proposal made to those fired, but that the situation had now become difficult.

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