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Platinum miners report to work

The men were dropped off by a bus escorted under heavy police guard.

Platinum mineworkers report for work at a Lonmin shaft in Marikana on 15 May 2014. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

MARIKANA - Some Lonmin miners have started reporting for work this morning and police are continuing to transport others to shafts where members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) are on strike.

The miners started their shifts at 9am at the company's Marikana mines despite continued reports of intimidation and violence in the surrounding townships.

A group of miners wearing hard hats, rescue packs and white overalls reported for duty at a Lonmin shaft a short while ago.

The men were dropped off by a bus that was escorted under heavy police guard.

They were angered by the media presence in the area and expressed concern about what would happen to them if they were found to be amongst those reporting for duty.

Company management has also expressed concern about the men being identified and security remains stationed at the shaft and along the roads leading into it.

Four people, including three miners, have been killed in the past week in what is suspected to be strike-related violence as the strike enters its fourth month.

Non-unionised workers have spoken out about a climate of fear on the platinum belt and brutal attacks on workers who dare report for duty.

Amcu President Joseph Mathunjwa on Wednesday said the increased police presence in Marikana reminded him of the deadly 2012 strike by rock drill operators.

Marikana was the scene of a deadly August 2012 shooting by police in which 34 striking workers were gunned down in the area.

At the time, the standoff was described as the bloodiest shootout in post-apartheid South Africa.

MATHUNJWA ACCUSES POLICE OF TAKING SIDES

Mathunjwa has accused the police of taking sides in the ongoing conflict in Marikana, saying they were intimidating striking workers.

Mathunjwa yesterday addressed thousands of miners at a rally at the Wonderkop stadium.

The Amcu leader said the police should have been deployed to the area much earlier when Amcu members were being attacked.

"The police are taking sides. How many people of Amcu were killed while we were on strike. Nine spent cartridges were picked up in one of our shop steward's homes. I am not saying the police mustn't do what they are supposed to but the timing is questionable."

Mathunjwa has warned Lonmin Platinum that bypassing the union and bargaining directly with workers was exactly what led to the Marikana shootings in 2012.

Mathunjwa told workers that Lonmin's SMS campaign to get them back to work would not succeed.

He said the company had not learnt any lessons from the failed wage negotiations in 2012.

"When they found out there was no settlement with workers, Lonmin called the government and the police massacred workers."

The union leader also said Amcu could not be held responsible for acts of intimidation that happened outside their picketing area.

"Amcu can only be accountable in the picketing area. Anything that happens in the community is another jurisdiction for the police."

AUTHORITIES FAIL TO REACH OUT TO MATHUNJWA

National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega says her office has tried reaching out to Mathunjwa to try and quell tensions in Marikana but he had ignored all the attempts.

Phiyega said police remained committed to resolving the conflict on the platinum belt as the wage strike dragged on.

Phiyega and Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa visited Lonmin's Marikana mine yesterday as thousands of workers staged a rally at the nearby Wonderkop stadium.

She said police would remain in Marikana until the situation was calm.

Mthethwa said authorities had been informed about a plan to destabilise the mining area, more specifically Marikana.

He said authorities would hunt down those responsible for violence in the area.

The minister said police must distinguish between protests by civilians and workers, and said criminal acts disguised as industrial action would not be tolerated.

Mthethwa also said mining companies had a responsibility to protect their employees.

Authorities are expected to report on how many arrests have been made in the area later today.

CONCERN AROUND REMOVAL OF CLAUSE

Meanwhile, the Marikana Support Campaign (MSC) has called on President Jacob Zuma to reinstate clause 1.5 in the terms of reference for the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, saying that the removal of the clause would compromise the investigation.

Trevor Ngwane says government and mining bosses should also appear before the commission.

Ngwane says they are committed to ensuring that all evidence is made public.

"We will support all litigation efforts by the legal parties representing the victims."

The commission has also called for the extension of the inquiry saying that all stakeholders involved should be cross-examined.

According to Judge Ian Farlam, the deletion of clause 1.5 means government ministers will not have to appear before the commission.

DEBT COUNSELLING APPLICATIONS TRIPLE

Debt Rescue says the number of people who have applied for debt counselling has more than tripled on the platinum belt since Amcu's strike began.

The institution says small and medium businesses that have traditionally relied on mining companies to generate profit have been hit the hardest.

Sales at food outlets such as Spar and Shoprite are also estimated to have dropped by 30 percent.

Debt Rescue CEO Neil Roets says, "The problem is their credit providers are now taking legal action against them. The smaller and medium sized businesses are feeling the effects because people don't have money to go and support the shops."

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