Posted on Friday, 10 June 2016 14:08

Fearing killings, South Africa platinum workers press on with strike

By Crystal Orderson in Cape Town

Mining minister Mozebenzi Zwane. Photo©ReutersWorkers at a South African platinum mine rocked by deadly clashes between rival trade unions have vowed not to return to work until management guarantees their safety.

Northam, Zondereinde Mine suspended operations on Monday followed the death of two workers. The deaths were linked to clashes between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).

There is political competition on the platinum belt

NUM members at the mine in Limpopo Province said they would return to work until they receive an assurance that the mine was safe.

Mining minister Mozebenzi Zwane this week addressed thousands of workers at the mine and called for an end to the killings. "Let's encourage peace," he said. "There is political competition on the platinum belt," Zwane added referring to the clashes between NUM and AMCU.

Zwane said he would return to the mine next week to meet the rival unions in an effort to ease tensions. He said the ministry would also follow up on investigations into the killing of six NUM members at the mine last year.

Production at the mine was suspected after an AMCU member died during clashes between the union and NUM.

AMCU's Joseph Mutunjwa told a local radio station that NUM was responsible for Monday's death. NUM denied the accusation, urging AMCU to provide police with evidence that its members were involved in the murder.

South Africa's platinum belt has become a battle ground for rival unions in the mining sector and the latest killings have heightening concern over violence involving unions.

The Zondereinde mine produces about 300 000 ounces of platinum a year and says it is losing R15 million per day due to the disturbances.

South Africa is the world's top producer of the precious metal used for catalytic converters in automobiles. However, the sector has been bleeding jobs due to a slump in global commodity prices.

* A previous version of this article mentioned NUMSA (National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa) instead of NUM (National Union of Mineworkers - South Africa). That error has been corrected.

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