In the wake of the shocking police massacre last week that left 34 striking miners dead, the South African government has ordered the platinum mining company to lift its threat to fire all the striking workers if they don’t return to work today.
“The president [Jacob Zuma] has declared this week as a mourning week. We want all, including mine bosses, to respect this,” police minister Nathi Mthethwahe told reporters in Rustenburg late on Monday, according to the South African Mail & Guardian.
Lonmin had issued a threat to the 3,000 miners who are striking over low pay that they would lose their jobs if they didn’t show up at the mines on Tuesday morning. But after the police opened fire on the group last week, killing 34 and injuring 78, the remaining miners are in a totally different mindset now. Their colleagues have become martyrs who died for the cause of fighting for higher pay. Some miners had said they would rather die than return to work.
“People have died already so we have nothing more to lose,” Kaizer Madiba told the South African Times newspaper. “We are going to continue fighting for what we believe is a legitimate fight for living wages. We would rather die like our comrades than back down.”
Mark Munroe, Lonmin’s executive vice-president, said firing thousands of workers certainly would not ease the tension at the Marikana mine near Johannesburg.
“It won’t help if Lonmin goes out and dismisses a whole lot of people for not coming to work today,” he told South Africa’s TalkRadio 702 FM. “It will set us back significantly in terms of violence, in terms of building trust.”
Shockingly, nearly a week after the massacre some families still haven’t been informed whether their loved ones are dead or among about 250 arrested protesters and 78 people being treated in hospital. They are still desperately searching for information and coming up against government bureaucracy.
The South African parliament is scheduled to debate the killings today.
The 3,000 striking rock drillers are demanding their wages be tripled from 4,000 rand ($484) a month to 12,500 rand a month.