South Africa mourns as miners return to work
By Funke Atohengbe, Pretoria
South African President Jacob Zuma has declared a week of national mourning from Monday, in the wake of the deadly violence at the Lonmin Marikana Platinum Mine, in which dozens of workers died.
President Zuma said the mourning period would also be devoted to remembering all South Africans who have died during violence.
“The nation is in shock and in pain. We must this week reflect on the sanctity of human life and the right to life as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic,” President Zuma said.
Flags will be flown at half mast at all stations and in all South African missions abroad.
President Zuma also declared Thursday as the official day for memorial services to be held across the country to mourn and promote a violence-free society.
The Marikana massacre has been described as the worst Police killings since the end of apartheid.
The week-long mourning period came on the heels of threats by the mine owner, to sack the striking workers if they fail to return to work immediately.
Humiliation to the dead
A report says the striking workers have started to return to their work at the mine on Monday.
Earlier, striking miners rejected an ultimatum by the company to return to work on Monday, saying doing so will be a humiliation to those miners who died in clashes.
’’All sections at the mine have resumed operation and ‘every striking worker’ is returning to work.’’ A source at the company's communication department was quoted to have said in an interview.
The officer, who did not give her name, refused to give details.
Demand for pay raise
The Chief Financial Officer of Lonmin Mine, Simon Scott said returning to work is very crucial for South Africa’s economic survival.
The Lonmin Marikana Platinum Mine is the world's third largest platinum producer.
“The final ultimatum provides RDOs (rock drill operators) with a last opportunity to return to work or face possible dismissal,” the company said.
The workers are demanding a pay rise from 4,000 to 12,500 Rand per month.
Thousands of miners had been protesting since August 10 at the mine in North West Province to press their demand for better working conditions and a rise in salaries.
Violence erupted during the protest, between the miners belonging to two rival trade unions, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which have been vying for control of the miners for years.
With additional agency report: XINHUA/Yinka