Johannesburg — The five-month-long strike in the platinum sector finally ended on Monday with labour union Amcu accepting the employers' offer.
"Platinum will never be the same again... What other unions could not do in more than 20 years, you could do in five months," Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa told around 20,000 union members at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Phokeng, near Rustenburg in the North West.
He said the agreement would be signed on Tuesday.
"Workers will return to work by Wednesday. This means the strike is officially over," he said to loud applause and dancing.
Members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union accepted a wage settlement that would increase the salary of the lowest-paid worker by R1000 over three years.
The agreements run for three years.
Salaries would increase by R1000 in the first two years and in the third year they would increase by R950.
The salary of officials and artisans would increase by eight percent in the first year and by 7.5 percent in the second and third year.
The living-out allowance would not be increased over the three-year period. Other benefits would increase annually, based on the consumer price index.
Amcu members at Lonmin, Impala Platinum (Implats) and Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) downed tools on January 23, demanding a monthly basic salary of R12,500.
Mathunjwa said the agreement was a milestone in the history of mineworkers.
"It is a victory for mineworkers to earn a living wage." he said.
When Mathunjwa asked members whether the union should accept the offer, they chanted "Yes, yes", pointing their fingers upwards.
Implats mineworker Asavelu Mncube said he was relieved the strike was over.
"I am waiting for my back pay so that I can catch up with life," he said.
"We lost a lot during the strike, but it was for a good cause."
Workers were expected to be back paid within seven days of returning to work. For Implats and Amplats it would be from July 1, 2013 to January 23, 2014 and for Lonmin it would be from October 31, 2013 to January 23, 2014.
Mathunjwa said as part of the return to work package, all essential workers who were dismissed at Lonmin for being part of the strike would be reinstated.
In an address lasting more than an hour, Mathunjwa boasted about Amcu, mocked efforts by Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi to end the strike, and criticised ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.
Mathunjwa also described it as the most peaceful strike in South Africa's history, despite reports over the past months of widespread intimidation and at least five murders of non-striking workers.
Between the strike's beginning and end, South Africa went to the polls to elect a new government, and endured two separate credit rating downgrades, partly based on how the strike was being perceived by rating agencies.
Workers and employers reportedly lost billions, with the www.platinumwagenegotiations.co.za <http://www.platinumwagenegotiations.co.za> website, set-up by employers, stating R10.6 billion in wages and R23.9bn in revenue had been lost by early Monday evening due to the strike.