* Typical South African miner has many dependants
* Prolonged strike may test workers' resolve
* Strike has hit world's top platinum producers
By Ed Stoddard
MERITING, South Africa, Jan 30 South African
miner Venter Mulutsi has one food item in his small fridge: a
bag of potatoes that he hopes will last a week.
Beyond that, the Impala Platinum miner who has been
on strike for a week with around 100,000 of his comrades from
the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU),
has a bag of maize meal and a loaf of bread.
But with the fatalism and resolve displayed by many a miner,
he says he is prepared to extend the strike until his union wins
its goal of a "living wage" of 12,500 rand ($1,100) a month.
The bulk of rival Anglo American Platinum and
Lonmin's operations in South Africa have also been hit
by the AMCU stoppage, which has affected over 40 percent of
global output and dealt a fresh blow to investor confidence in
Africa's largest economy.
"What difference does it make? Even when I'm working I'm
only earning enough for food and rent," Mulutsi, 40, a
mechanical assistant at Implats, told Reuters at his one-room,
cinder-block home that gets as hot as the underground shafts in
Holding a pay slip from late 2013, he points to a line that
shows net pay of 4,268.66 for the month. A faded slip from 2008
shows he took home just 2,000 rand that month.
He may not see another one for some time after AMCU mass
rallies on Thursday rejected pay hike offers from the three
companies of between 7.5 and 9 percent.
The 12,500 rand demand is more than double the basic
entry-level wage. The three companies say they cannot afford the
increases as they recover from a wave of 2012 wildcat strikes
rooted in a turf war between AMCU and its arch-rival, the
National Union of Mineworkers, in which dozens of people were
BILLS TO PAY
But the management maths cuts little ice with the likes of
Mulutsi, who says it will take 11 years to reach 12,500 rand a
month if he accepts the companies' latest offer.
"By then I'll be old and almost a pensioner," said Mulutsi,
a short, stocky man clad in a shirt emblazoned with the logo of
the Soweto soccer giants Kaiser Chiefs.
The road outside Mulutsi's house is paved but many in the
dusty township on the outskirts of Rustenburg, 120 km (70 miles)
northwest of Johannesburg, are not.
Nearby, in the shadow of the hoisting gear for Implats'
Number 1 shaft, cattle graze in communal fields and chickens
scratch in the earth between the small homes.
Like many miners, Mulutsi has other mouths to feed: a wife
and two kids, plus the two children of a destitute sister. They
live in Delareyville, a small town 200 miles away in a remote
part of North West, the self-styled "platinum province."
That brings a variety of bills to pay, from cooking gas to
school books. "My oldest daughter is in high school now and all
the money is going to her," he said.
The platinum belt strikes present a challenge to President
Jacob Zuma and the ruling African National Congress (ANC), which
faces an election in around three months.
The ANC is almost certain to maintain its outright majority
thanks to its continued status as the party of black liberation.
But Victory will not be thanks to its standing in the mines - a
point summed up by Mulutsi.
"This government took over in 1994 but we are still slaves
in this country," he said.
($1 = 11.2237 South African rand)
(Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)