* Police minister says expects arrests "within hours"
* AMCU leader says strikers' resolve not broken
* Four miners have been murdered in recent days
* Spot platinum hits 2-month high
(adds police minister comments, Lonmin comment)
By Zandi Shabalala
MARIKANA, South Africa, May 14 South Africa's
police minister vowed to crack down on violence against platinum
miners who were trying to return to work and arrest "within
hours" strikers he said were behind a campaign of intimidation.
South Africa's longest and costliest strike ever, has taken
a violent turn in recent days, with four miners killed as more
employees try to report for work at the world's top platinum
Earlier on Wednesday, striking members of the main
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU)
prevented other workers from returning to platinum producer
Lonmin's shafts, thwarting the company's efforts to end
the 16-week strike.
"In South Africa, the rule of law reigns ... Anarchy is not
what is going to be accepted," minister Nathi Mthethwa told a
news conference later.
Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum
have also been hit by the strike, which has brought to
a halt 40 percent of global production of the precious metal
used for catalytic-converters in automobiles.
Lonmin had been aiming on Wednesday for a "mass return" of
workers but a spokesman said "a very low number" had showed up.
The producers have said many of the strikers have signalled a
willingness to accept the latest pay.
Implats' mines around the platinum belt town of Rustenburg
remain shut while it tallies the results of votes on its pay
offer and assesses the security situation.
AMCU's arch-rival the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM)
said its members were unable to return to work because of AMCU
The charismatic president of AMCU, Joseph Mathunjwa, urged
his members to stay the course.
"Let's stay strong. Yes it's difficult, but let's hold each
other by the hand and stay strong. Onward!" Mathunjwa told
thousands of strikers at a rally near Lonmin's Marikana mine.
The strikers, many wielding sticks, roared their approval to
Mathunjwa's remarks at the rally held near the site where police
shot dead 34 striking Lonmin miners in August 2012. That sent
spot platinum to two-month highs over $1,470 an ounce.
Mathunjwa, a Salvation Army lay preacher who often evokes
both God and class warfare, used typically combative language,
telling the crowd that "the purpose of capital is to destroy
AMCU and its members."
The companies decided to take their latest wage offer
directly to AMCU's members after wage talks with the union
collapsed three weeks ago.
Mathunjwa said AMCU was going to the labour court next week
to prevent the firms from by-passing the union in this way.
The companies said they would "strongly oppose" this, saying
in a statement that they "wanted to ensure that employees are
fully informed of the offer, and that they are empowered to
accept or reject the offer of their own free will."
The industry has long accused AMCU of using intimidation to
keep its members in line, allegations it denies.
The companies are offering increases of up to 10 percent
that they say would raise the overall minimum pay package to
12,500 rand ($1,200) a month by July 2017, including cash
allowances such as for housing.
They say they can go no higher given rising costs and
depressed prices and Lonmin's chief executive Ben Magara said on
Monday restructuring and job cuts were inevitable as it posted a
steep fall in six-month earnings.
Platinum's price, despite Wednesday's moves, has largely
taken a muted response to the stoppage as traders have bet there
are sufficient above-ground stocks to meet demand which remains
far from robust.
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.
It has also hurt already sluggish growth in Africa's most
advanced economy and rating agency Moody's said on Wednesday the
country's credit rating remained under pressure.
(Additional reporting by Ed Cropley and Tiisetso Motsoeneng in
Johannesburg; Writing by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Mark Potter and