* Stick-wielding protests barricade roads, torch stalls
* Police say they are prepared for any eventuality
* Amplats says majority of strikers want to work
* Lonmin prepares for May 14 return to work deadline
(Adds march near Lonmin mine)
By Zandi Shabalala
MARIKANA, South Africa, May 13 Hundreds of
stick-wielding miners barricaded roads and torched roadside
vegetable stalls near Lonmin's South African platinum mine on
Tuesday, in an attempt to block fellow strikers from breaking
rank and going back to work.
Lonmin and other producers have appealed
directly to striking miners to return to work, skirting the
militant AMCU union which has threatened that "something else"
could happen if companies continue to address workers directly.
About 1,000 members blocked the main road leading to the
mine shafts with rocks and burning tyres. They torched fruit and
vegetable stalls as they marched near Lonmin's Marikana mine.
One protester, who declined to give his name, said the march
was aimed at keeping striking workers united in their pursuit
for higher wages.
"We will go back but we need money first...we don't want to
be split into two, that's all" an AMCU member outside the Lonmin
South Africa sent more police to the platinum belt on
Tuesday to protect miners who have decided to ditch a 16-week
strike that has halted 40 percent of normal global output and
dented already sluggish growth in Africa's most advanced
Thulani Ngubane, police spokesman in the platinum mining
town of Rustenburg northwest of Johannesburg, said police had
set up park-and-ride facilities around the platinum mines to
handle the arrivals.
It is unclear how many workers will be coming back but the
three big platinum firms say a majority of the 70,000 strikers
they have contacted directly want to end the strike.
"We are prepared for any eventuality," Ngubane said,
although he acknowledged it would be difficult to provide
security for the miners in the shanty towns that ring the main
mines. Four miners have been killed in the area over the last
Four police armoured vehicles were stationed outside
Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine, where police killed 34
striking miners in 2012.
Shop stewards of the striking Association of Mineworkers and
Construction Union (AMCU) told Reuters police had also broken up
an illegal march by union members at Marikana.
RETURNING TO WORK
AMCU members have been on strike at Anglo American Platinum
, Impala Platinum and Lonmin since January
pressing for higher wages, but talks have gone nowhere.
Lonmin has said it expects more miners to start returning to
work on Wednesday after it made its wage offer directly to
employees, sidestepping AMCU.
Implats said it was using mobile phone text messages to
conduct a vote on its offer, which was expected to be concluded
later on Tuesday. Amplats also said a majority of its workers
wanted to return to work.
"The main reason they are not coming to work is because they
are being intimidated," Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said.
The firm had provided bus vouchers to its employees in the
Eastern Cape province, where many miners have their homes, to
return to Rustenburg and most of them had gone back, she added.
The producers say the strike has so far cost them 17 billion
rand ($1.64 billion) in lost revenues and employees have lost
nearly 8 billion rand of earnings.
AMCU's leaders maintain that most of their striking members
are not happy with the latest offer of a raise in pay of up to
WAGE DEAL "OUT OF QUESTION"
The companies say that would raise the overall minimum pay
package to 12,500 rand ($1,200) a month by July 2017, including
cash allowances for things like housing, but AMCU says this is
"We have remained so far apart. A deal with AMCU at this
point in time seems completely out of the question," Amplats
chief executive Chris Griffith told private radio station Talk
Radio 702. Griffith added that most Amplats miners wanted to
return to work.
AMCU had initially demanded an immediate increase to 12,500
rand in the basic wage, excluding allowances, but softened that
in March to staggered increases that would amount to 12,500 rand
within three or four years - still a third more than what the
companies are offering in basic salaries.
The strike highlights the discontent among black miners who
feel they are still not reaping the benefits of the country's
mineral wealth two decades after apartheid ended.
($1 = 10.3782 South African Rand)
(Additional reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, Ed Cropley in
Johannesburg and Ed Stoddard in Mthatha; Writing by Olivia
Kumwedna-Mtambo; Editing by Ed Cropley, Giles Elgood and Peter