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Economy

South Africa still tense as some miners return to work

Unrest has escalated at one platinum mine in South Africa, just as workers at another one were returning to work with a pay rise after a lethal industrial conflict.

At the Sondela informal settlement next to the Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) mine in Rustenburg, residents and miners blocked roads with rocks and burning tyres as they tried to force the police to keep their distance.

"They shot at us with rubber bullets, and afterwards they poured tear gas, that's why we put the rocks (in)," Mable Makgelta, told the news agency AFP on Thursday  

The 30-year- old, whose husband works for a mining contractor, was speaking one day after police had arrested 22 people in the area. 

"We'll buy 20 liters of petrol and if police get violent, we will make petrol bombs and threw them at them," Lawrence Mudsie, an Amplats rock driller told the Reuters news agency, while holding up a sign demanding 16,700 rand (1543 euros, $2004) a month.

Another miner, who did not wish to be named, said "We'll not go back to work until we get what we want. Our kids have been shot at, our families have been terrorised and brutalised, but we are not going back to work."

Unrest spread from Lonmin

Amplats is the world's biggest platinum producer, accounting for 40 percent of global supplies of the metal used for catalytic converters in cars and for jewellery. 

It gave its workers an ultimatum to return  to work by the Thursday night shift after declaring the strike action illegal.

The unrest had spread to the Amplats mine from the nearby platinum giant Lonmin, where thousands of workers returned to work on Thursday, after a deal brought to an end a crippling strike in which 46 people died, 34 of whom were gunned down by police.

Miners sing and dance whilst holding South African bank notes in Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa. Photo:Themba Hadebe/AP/dapd)

Amplats miners hope they can secure a pay rise equal to that granted at Lonmin

The latest death was confirmed by the government late on Wednesday. During a police crackdown on striking miners over the weekend, a woman was shot in the leg by a rubber bullet and later died of her wound. 

The deal at Lonmin will see their miners' wages rise by between 11 and 22 percent. Amplats workers say they will not settle for less than 12,500 rand the same amount Lonmin staff had been pushing for.

Zuma deploys troops

Dr Hamadziripi Tamukamoyo is a researcher in crime and justice at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Pretoria. Asked in a DW Africalink interview about unresolved tensions, including inter-union rivalry, in the wake of the deal, he said "There is a sense that the labor unions are too close to the centre of power, that they are too close to mine management and there is the feeling that the leaders of some of the unions do not understand the plight of workers."

South African President Jacob Zuma attends 32nd summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) at Maputo's Joaquim Chissano Conference Centre on August 17, 2012 in Maputo. Southern African leaders meet until August 18 in Maputo for a summit that will try to nudge Madagascar and Zimbabwe toward new elections under 'roadmaps' that are a test of the region's commitment to democracy. Zuma will cut short his visit to Mozambique to visit the Lonmin Marikana mine in Rustenburg where up to 36 striking miners were killed in a clash with police yesterday. AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/GettyImages)

President Zuma is deploying troops to crack down on unrest in the mining sector

The protests have also spread to the Gold Fields concern near Johannesburg which is losing 1,400 ounces of gold daily since 15,000 miners downed tools 11 days ago.

South African President Jacob Zuma announced on Thursday he was deploying troops to the platinum belt to help support the police crackdown.     

"It is unfortunate," says the ISS's Tamukamoyo "there are better ways of managing the situation than a show of force."  

DW.DE