Platinum firm sacks 12,000 out on strike
The world’s largest platinum producer, Anglo American Platinum, fired 12,000 workers involved in a three-week illegal strike yesterday, following through threats over wildcat stoppages in South African mines.
Two months of labour unrest has spread from mines to other parts of Africa’s biggest economy, causing political problems for president Jacob Zuma and his ruling African National Congress, which is closely tied to established trade unions.
Oil giant Shell said yesterday that it could not honour fuel delivery contracts around Johannesburg because of a two-week lorry drivers’ strike. Police shot dead another striking miner overnight, taking the death toll to 48 in the worst labour unrest since the end of apartheid.
Mr Zuma has been criticised for his low-key response, especially after police shot dead 34 strikers at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine at Rustenburg on 16 August. In a speech to business leaders late on Thursday Mr Zuma stressed that, since the end of white-minority rule, South Africans have shown “the capacity to overcome difficulties when we work together”.
“We should not seek to portray ourselves as a nation that is perpetually fighting,” he said.
However, with an ANC leadership run-off looming in December, the party is preoccupied with its own divisions and Mr Zuma is unlikely to take any action that could upset the unions.
“In the build-up to the election, the government is unlikely to come out with any clear policy directives,” said Simon Freemantle, an analyst at Standard Bank in Johannesburg.
More than 75,000 miners, or 15 per cent of the workforce in a sector that accounts for 6 per cent of output, have been involved in the wildcat strikes.
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