By Ed Stoddard
PRETORIA, June 14 Disgruntled workers at an
Anglo American Platinum mine in South Africa prevented
2,400 miners from going above ground on Friday, the company
said, dealing a blow to an attempt by the government to ease 18
months of unrest in the sector.
The world's largest platinum producer, commonly known as
Amplats, said the industrial action at its Thembelani mine
followed the dismissal of four union shop stewards for
An activist from the Association of Mineworkers and
Construction Union (AMCU) said the workers had downed tools
underground in anger at the dismissal of the union officials.
It was unclear exactly what happened next but it follows a
pattern of intimidation in which groups of workers prevent
others from doing their job.
The incident was the latest wildcat action to hit the
platinum belt, which has hit growth in Africa's largest economy
and brought ratings downgrades.
"There is zero tolerance to any illegal actions which
include intimidation, threats of violence and assault," Amplats
said in a statement.
Amplats is in talks to cut up to 6,000 jobs around the
platinum belt city of Rustenburg, a move that induced a fierce
reaction from the government before elections next year.
As the strike was unfolding, senior ministers, mining bosses
and union leaders were meeting in Pretoria to try to end the
instability, rooted in a turf war between the AMCU and the
National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), a political ally of the
ruling African National Congress.
More than 50 people were killed in mining unrest last year
that cost gold and platinum producers billions in lost output.
Tensions remain high and members from both unions have been
killed in shootings in recent weeks.
The meeting, chaired by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe,
produced a draft agreement to work towards "ensuring law and
order and ending violence and conflict".
The leaders of both the NUM and the AMCU were at the table
alongside Mines Minister Susan Shabangu and Finance Minister
Shabanbgu has been accused of siding with the NUM but she
greeted AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa warmly and sat next to
"We are good friends, Joseph and I. We talk all the time,"
she told Reuters.
The AMCU, which has emerged as the dominant union in the
platinum shafts after poaching tens of thousands of members from
the once-unrivalled NUM, has led two brief wildcat strikes at
platinum producer Lonmin this year.
President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday he would take a hard
line against labour unrest in the sector as management and
unions prepare to embark on industry-wide wage negotiations.