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Marikana strike a ticking time bomb

There are renewed fears of violence after Marikana miners downed tools and embarked on a wildcat strike.

Marikana miners down tools following the deaths of three people on 14 May 2013. Picture: Lesego Ngobeni/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - There were renewed fears of unrest in South Africa's platinum belt with a wildcat strike at Lonmin's Marikana Mine and union rivalry once again taking centre stage.

Thousands of Lonmin workers downed tools bringing operations at the mine to a halt.

Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) regional chairperson Mawethu Stevens who was due to testify in the Marikana Inquiry was killed on Saturday.

His murder sparked hostility between Amcu and National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

Amcu workers led Tuesday's strike and marched to the infamous Koppie and then to the Wonderkop Stadium for a mass meeting.

Amcu President Joseph Mathunjwa insists he didn't call on his members to strike, but said their grievances were about NUM officials carrying weapons.

"We have been complaining that NUM members are carrying guns to work, but nobody is doing anything."

Representatives from the union are in talks with Lonmin management to ensure it gets recognised as the majority union.

But, NUM's Lesiba Seshoka said, "If this is not stopped the violence could get out of hand and be much more worse than last year."

Police have stationed themselves some distance away from the demonstrations, allowing miners to protest freely.

Both NUM and Amcu have distanced themselves on who called for the strike, implying that workers have taken matters into their own hands.

MASS MEETING

During the mass meeting at Wonderkop stadium Amcu leaders told the crowd that a NUM office was no longer welcome at the mine.

"NUM must leave otherwise we will not return to work."

Miners were hostile towards media and were reluctant to discuss their grievances saying journalists must stay away from the infamous koppie which is now considered sacred ground after 34 miners were killed there during clashes with police last year.

The value of the Rand has dropped since operations came to a halt and the platinum producer could start experiencing major losses if the protest continues.