Rustenburg - Swift intervention by police officers saved a man from protesting Lonmin mineworkers near Marikana on Monday afternoon.
Armed protesters wielding various weapons - including knobkerries, pangas and spears - marched from mine shaft to mine shaft calling for the closure of all operations.
The strikers insisted that people they met on the way join them in their procession. A middle-aged man saw the arms-wielding crowd approaching, and turned and ran away.
Armed strikers gave chase, shouting, as the man sprinted to a nearby main road.
There, he was picked up by one of several police vehicles - including Nyalas, which were escorting the protesters - and was taken to safety.
The strikers had congregated at the entrance to Lonmin's Eastern platinum mine before midday.
Four police Nyalas blocked the entrance, and the strikers halted outside, singing and dancing. Protest leaders entered the mine premises escorted by police officers.
The workers sang: “Thina silwela amalungelo wethu... (We are fighting for our rights).”
After visiting the mining shafts and the hostels, calling on non-striking workers to join them, the strikers settled at an open space near the hostels.
A leader of the protesters, Anele Nogwanya, said they would be proceeding to a nearby hill after meeting at the open space.
Earlier, Nogwanya said the protesters were demanding that all mining operations in the area be ceased until their demand of a R12 500 a month wage were met.
“We have now buried all our fallen colleagues. Now is the time to honour our promise to them of getting the R12 500,” he said.
“If we go back to work without getting R12 500, our deceased colleagues will turn against us.”
On August 16, police fired on a group of protesting workers, killing 34 of them and wounding 78. Another 10 people were killed the preceding week, including two policemen and two security guards.
Lonmin said staff attendance was at 6.34 percent on Monday, ahead of wage talks, which were expected to begin at noon.
One of the conditions of a peace deal, signed on Thursday, was that the workforce return on Monday.
The company, which is considered one of the world's largest producers of platinum group metals, loses about 2500 platinum ounces a day in lost production.
Work stopped at the mine on August 10. - Sapa