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South Africa mining giant sacks 12,000 strikers

Mining company Anglo American Platinum got tough on strikers in South Africa on Friday, announcing it was sacking 12,000 workers. The move only seems likely to inflame labour unrest in the country, which has left dozens dead in recent months.


Tensions between mine owners and workers in South Africa heightened on Friday when 12,000 staff were sacked for taking part in an illegal strike.

The world’s biggest platinum producer, Anglo American Platinum, said it had fired the workers after reporting their walkout had cost the company around $82 million in lost output.

Some of the 12,000 miners sacked by the world's largest platinum producer in South Africa on Saturday gathered to protest their dismissal and mourn a colleague killed in clashes with police.

Around 100 miners started arriving at a stadium in the northern town of Rustenburg, to debate how to respond to the mass dismissal by Anglo American Platinum.

Police armoured vehicles parked outside the stadium, while a helicopter circled the area.

Around 28,000 Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) workers have been on a wildcat strike for three weeks at the firm's sprawling facilities in Rustenburg, which account for around a quarter of world platinum production.

Amplats on Friday said the miners failed to appear before disciplinary hearings "and have therefore been dismissed in their absence."

(Source AFP)

The miners failed to appear for disciplinary proceedings “and have therefore been dismissed in their absence”, AFP reported.

The uncertainty of the platinum mining industry combined with the ongoing unrest means Friday’s move has not come out of the blue to many in South Africa.

“This country is quite used to large figures like this, even if 12,000 seems shocking by European standards,” the Independent’s Cape Town correspondent Alex Duval Smith told FRANCE 24. “There are 125,000 people employed in the industry.”
“Essentially the mining industry says it is overstaffed, it needs to get rid of people, the strikes are illegal and if they continue we are going to do what we intended to do, which is fire people,” Duval Smith added.

The decision appears likely to further inflame an ongoing dispute in a week when labour unrest has left at least six people dead around the country.

Miners reported that police shot and killed a worker when they used tear gas and rubber bullets to break up a crowd of demonstrators gathered overnight Thursday on a hill near a platinum mine in Rustenburg.

Mbubhu Lolo said one of his colleagues had been shot in the stomach by a rubber bullet. "He was shot here by the police," Lolo told Reuters, pointing to his midriff.

Police on the ground near the shanty town 120 km northwest of Johannesburg would not let reporters go up the hill to see the body, saying they were still investigating the scene. Authorities were unable to confirm the death.

The base of the hill was littered with tear gas canisters and empty shell casings that miners said were used to fire rubber bullets.

The country’s President Jacob Zuma has appealed for calm. Police shot dead 34 strikers at Lonmin's nearby Marikana platinum mine on Aug. 16, the bloodiest security incident since the end of apartheid in 1994. A further 13 people have died in labour unrest in the area since early August.

A South African transport union is also pushing for rail and port workers to join a strike by more than 20,000 lorry drivers in order to bring the entire transport sector to a standstill.

The lorry driver strike has hit fuel supplies and logistics groups in Africa's biggest economy. If it expands to railroads and ports, it would also affect exports of commodities such as coal, platinum and gold.

"We are working to have all our members in rail [and] ports join the strike in sympathy for the truck drivers as of next week," said Vincent Masoga, a spokesman for the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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