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Lonmin workers denied bail, new ultimatum set

259 Lonmin miners were denied bail in the Ga-Rankuwa Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

Worshippers gather for a prayer at the scene of the Lonmin shooting on 19 August 2012. Picture: Taurai Maduna/EWN.

GA-RANKUWA/MARIKANA - The 259 Lonmin miners accused murder and other charges were denied bail in the Ga-Rankuwa Magistrate's Court on Monday.

The matter was postponed to next week Monday.

Earlier, the state asked the court to allow police more time to investigate the charges.

The suspects were arrested after Thursday's bloodbath in Marikana, in which 34 people were killed in a shootout between police and striking mineworkers.

At least 78 others were injured in the clashes.

While handing down his judgment, Magistrate Esau Bodigel said it was in the interest of justice for police to be allowed time to do a thorough investigation.

He dismissed arguments that police did not follow proper procedure by keeping the mineworkers in custody for more than 48 hours.

The legal team defending the Lonmin employees pleaded with the court to release the men, arguing the state's case was weak.

But prosecutor Bafana Tlhagoane told the court the suspects could not be released due to the seriousness of the allegations against them.

Only 39 of the 259 accused appeared in court due to space constraints.

While Bodigel delivered his ruling, some of the women present in court shed tears.

Meanwhile, demonstrators who gathered outside court were not deterred by the hot weather, as they sang and danced, calling for the release of their colleagues and neighbours.

The trouble started when 3,000 rock drill operators embarked on an illegal strike last week Friday.

Union rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers (Num) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) was initially blamed for the strike, but protesters soon disclosed they were demanding a salary increase of R12,500, instead of the R4,900 they currently earn.

NEW ULTIMATUM FOR MINERS

Striking miners have until Tuesday morning to return to work, or face dismissal.

This was announced by Lonmin management on Monday.

The company said it was working with unions to restore stability at its Marikana operation.

It was the first time officials at the mine had spoken out publicly since Thursday's tragedy.

Lonmin executive vice president Mark Munroe said the past 10 days were "tragic" and the situation had been one of "public disorder and lawlessness".

He said they would not enforce the ultimatum that was issued for striking miners to return to work on Monday.

Munroe said the company believed the average worker wanted the situation to end.

A third of the mine's workforce reported for duty on Monday.

Together with unions, Lonmin said it was committed to rebuilding trust with its workers and creating a peaceful environment for them to work in.

GATHERING IN WONDERKOP

At the same time, opposition and religious leaders addressed hundreds of residents from the mining town and some of the victims who were wounded during Thursday's attacks.

United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa accused government of always sending police to "sjambok" those who embark on employment and service delivery protests.

The gathering was part of an oversight visit by leaders, ahead of a debate set to take place in Parliament on Tuesday.

Eyewitness News spoke to a man who was shot four times during the clash with police.

He said all he wanted was a salary increase from the world's third largest Platinum producer.

Despite his injuries, he said he would protest again, if necessary.

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