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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Afrique du Sud : le temps des questions

by Pierre Barbancey

South Africa: time for questions

Translated Friday 24 August 2012, by Elaine Scott and reviewed by Bill Scoble

Parliament has opened a debate on the circumstances surrounding the drama at the Marikana mine.

The mine owner, Lonmin, tried to maintain its ultimatum against the striking miners but quickly realised that the emotion sparked off by the police shooting which caused 34 deaths was not in its favour. The South African presidency had therefore asked the Marikana mine operator to suspend its ultimatum whose deadline for miners to return to work was set for yesterday morning. “It will not help anybody if Lonmin decides to fire a large number of people for not coming to work today”, admitted Mark Munroe, Lonmin’s vice-president in charge of mining operations, though still maintaining pressure on workers: “We will not try actively to fire people, but there will be consequences for those who do not come back to work.”

Tension seemed to have diminished on Tuesday. 33% of miners had returned to work, according to Lonmin. On the outskirts of the site, just as before, several hundred men assembled to repeat their refusal to return to work. “Our position has not changed, we aren’t moving, we refuse to be intimidated by Lonmin”, cried Litha Mpula, who describes himself as a “survivor” of the shooting on 16th August. The regional branch of the union confederation Cosatu believes that “miners should only return to work once all workers concerned have been consulted”. On Monday, Lonmin had discussions with the main union, NUM (a member of Cosatu), but had not invited the smaller union Amcu, which strongly supported and encouraged the spontaneous strike, which is considered illegal according to labour law. On Tuesday afternoon, an extraordinary debate took place at the National Assembly in Cape Town in regards to the massacre, which is the worst since the end of the apartheid in 1994.

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