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Platinum miners describe 'unbearable poverty'

Amcu's platinum strike is in its fourth month, with workers reportedly losing a combined R1.4 billion.

Army and police have been deployed in Marikana as more workers are expected to return to work on 14 May 2014 after months of strike. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

MARIKANA - In what's been described by Impala Platinum (Implats) as a tragedy, some of the miners on the platinum belt have told Eyewitness News the ongoing strike there has caused unbearable poverty in their homes.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu)'s strike started 16 weeks ago after six months of talks with Anglo American Platinum, Lonmin and Implats failed to reach a settlement.

The strike is centred on the platinum belt town of Rustenburg northwest of Johannesburg and Implats said the reopening of its mine there "will only be considered when the risk of violence and intimidation can be eliminated".

Pictures: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

The union is demanding a basic salary of R12,500 per month while the companies have offered an increase of just over nine percent.

The deadlock has cost companies as well as workers billions of rands and led to dire poverty on the platinum belt.

Amcu's regional shaft steward Makhanya Siphamandla says even though they have been suffering since the strike started, the mine workers are willing to continue their fight for a living wage.

Agnus Msiemiela, who works underground at Amplats, told EWN she's losing her possessions but still has faith in the union.

"I have been begging for a long time but I can't go back to work because I need R12,500 per month. I am doing a tough job."

Some of the miners have resorted to soup kitchens for their daily meals while others say they're hoping for relief from Amcu's strike fund.

Video: EWN visits a soup kitchen serving starving miners on in Marikana.

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.

Four people, including three miners, have been killed over the past week.

The National Union of Mineworkers also told its members to stay away from shafts where Amcu members are on strike, out of fear of intimidation.

Amcu has denied allegations it uses violence to keep its roughly 70,000 members on the platinum mines in line.

STRIKE IMPACT 'DEVASTATING'

Implats spokesperson Johan Theron says the impact of the strike is "absolutely devastating".

"Obviously the impact is enormous because 80 percent of our employees are on strike. It's in the order of R1,4 billion that they have lost."

The company says a human tragedy is unfolding on the platinum belt as a result of workers not being able to earn an income and it has called for employees to be allowed to return to work while negotiations to end the strike continue.

Implats says it has produced almost 160,000 ounces less over the past three months due to the protracted mass action.

Theron says the majority of employees have indicated that they want to return to work despite the ongoing strike action.

"What we are certainly dealing with is more and more people wanting to come back to work, but there is a threat of intimidation and that people could get hurt if we reopen the mine."

On Wednesday, three cars belonging to essential services staff at a Rustenburg mine were vandalised.

The company said its officials weren't able to arrest three men who managed to get through a security gate shortly after the morning shift started.

Violence broke out at the Implats mine near Rustenburg on 14 May 2014 during a mining strike. Picture: iWitness.

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