South Africa issues arrest warrant for Malema
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African authorities have issued an arrest warrant for ANC renegade Julius Malema, President Jacob Zuma's most vocal critic and a key backer of wildcat miner strikes that spread on Friday to bullion producer Anglogold Ashanti.
The former Youth League leader, who was expelled from the ruling African National Congress in April for indiscipline, was liaising with police about his appearance in court next week, his lawyer, Nicqui Galaktiou, told Reuters.
"We are busy arranging Mr. Malema's appearance next week," she said. "We don't have a confirmed date yet. We have not seen the warrant of arrest. We don't know what the charges are. He won't be jailed."
She added that the charges stemmed from an investigation by the police's elite Hawks detective division, which has been probing 31-year-old Malema for alleged corruption relating to the award of government contracts in his native Limpopo province.
South Africa's City Press newspaper said Malema, who has addressed crowds of strikers and called for nationwide industrial action, was facing charges of fraud, money laundering and corruption.
Malema has unnerved investors by calling for the nationalization of mines in the world's top platinum producer.
The wave of wildcat strikes started with a mass walkout at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine in early August, and culminated a week later when police killed 34 striking miners, the deadliest security incident since the 1994 end of apartheid.
The unrest hit AngloGold on Friday when workers downed tools at its Kopanang mine in Free State province.
The mine has 5,000 workers and the strikers had not yet communicated their demands, company spokesman Alan Fine said. It only accounts for about 4 percent of the group's global output.
RETURN TO WORK
A spokesman for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said the strikers wanted a wage of 12,500 rand ($1,500) a month, mirroring demands at other mines.
This is about triple the amount earned as basic pay at the bottom end of the wage scale in the industry.
Lonmin said a wage settlement at Marikana this week would add 14 percent to its wage bill from October 1, a huge strain on a company battling with an already shaky balance sheet and rising costs on other fronts.
Workers at the world's top platinum producer Anglo American Platinum are also on strike over pay, and there are concerns about more wildcat action.
But Gold Fields, the world's fourth largest bullion producer, said on Friday an illegal strike by 15,000 workers at its KDC West operation would end after the weekend though the details, worked out by union bosses with the rank and file, have not emerged.
"We have just had a word from the National Union of Mineworkers leadership that they had reached agreement with the striking workers at KDC West to return to work at the end of the long weekend with the start of the morning shift on Tuesday," spokesman Willie Jacobsz told Reuters.
Gold Fields was losing 1,400 ounces a day in output but only around 15 percent of its production came from those operations and so it could tough out a strike in a way that Lonmin, which was brought to a complete standstill, could not.
Chief executive Nick Holland told Reuters earlier this week that he would not entertain the wage hikes the strikers were also pressing for.
The strikers' demands included the resignation of the local branch leadership of the NUM.
Much of the labor strife rocking the South African mining sector has its roots in a turf war between the dominant NUM and the more militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).
AMCU has tapped into a swelling vein of discontent with the NUM, which is seen by some as out of touch and too closely linked to the ANC government.
($1 = 8.3260 South African rand)
(Additional reporting by Olivia Kumwenda and Ed Stoddard; Editing by Ed Cropley and Robin Pomeroy)
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