* Strike reduced Marikana to ghost town
* Community comes back to life as strike ends
* First pay cheques still weeks away
By Ed Stoddard
MARIKANA, South Africa, June 24 An armoured
vehicle carrying banknotes for an ATM machine rolled down
Marikana's dusty main street on Tuesday, a rare sight for locals
in the gritty South African mining town starved of cash during a
five-month platinum strike that has just ended.
"I haven't seen a cash vehicle coming out this way in a long
time," said Mohamed Moosa, who runs a general store in Marikana,
a town 120 km (70 miles) northwest of Johannesburg that has been
at the centre of the longest strike in South African history.
As the stoppage at the nearby shafts and smelter of
London-listed Lonmin ground on month after
month, the town all but emptied as miners and their families
trekked back to their ancestral villages to sit it out.
The strike formally ended this week as Lonmin and larger
rivals Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum
signed a wage deal with the Association of Mineworkers
and Construction Union (AMCU).
Workers were trickling back even before the deal was signed,
giving Moosa's business a shot in the arm, but the strike has
taken a massive toll on a town still haunted by the police
killing of 34 AMCU strikers in August 2012, the bloodiest
security crackdown since the end of apartheid two decades ago.
"For me, 2014 has been a write off," the 38-year-old Moosa
told Reuters. "We are totally dependent on the miners. Last week
it was still a ghost town here."
Outside his store, the streets were showing signs of life as
heavy mining trucks rumbled towards Lonmin and a handful of
drunks tottered along the side of the road, extending Monday
night end-of-strike celebrations into late Tuesday afternoon.
"It's good the strike is over because business has been
down, down," said 25-year-old Ishmail Chibail, a roadside hawker
selling loose cigarettes and sweets.
Despite his optimism, it will be another month before
Marikana gets a proper cash injection in the form of thousands
of Lonmin employees receiving their first month-end pay cheques
in nearly half a year.
The mining companies will take even longer to get back up to
speed and have told investors they would not be resuming
production of platinum, a precious metal used in jewellery and
catalytic converters, before September.
Africa's most advanced economy, which contracted in the
first three months of the year because of the strike, may suffer
an even longer hangover as investors weigh up the prospects of
more labour unrest in mining and beyond.
Wearing a green AMCU shirt, one Lonmin employee who only
gave his name as Thomas was pragmatic.
"Tomorrow, let's go to work," he said.
(Editing by Ed Cropley and Robin Pomeroy)