Police pursue platinum-belt killers

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AngloPlatStrike Reuters.

Johannesburg - South African police said they know who killed four people last week in the nation’s platinum belt, where most operations of the world’s three biggest producers of the metal have been halted for 17 weeks because of a pay strike.

“We know who we are looking for,” Thulani Ngubane, spokesman for South African Police Service in North West province, said by phone today.

“The investigation is still in progress. Arrest is not an overnight thing.”

A male worker at Lonmin’s Saffy shaft died from stab wounds and a contractor burnt to death last week, police said.

A man and woman were found dead at their house on May 11, they said.

The names of the three men appeared on a list, allegedly compiled by Lonmin employees, that detailed miners who agreed to return to work and that was being used as a “hit list,” City Press newspaper reported yesterday, citing part of the record it had seen.

Minority unions and companies operating in the Rustenburg area in South Africa, which has the world’s biggest platinum reserves, have reported violence and intimidation throughout the strike in which members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union want wages more than doubled for entry-level workers.

The stoppage has cost the producers 18.8 billion rand in lost revenue and workers 8.3 billion rand in wages.


Fear Tactic


Lonmin, Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum took their offer directly to miners earlier this month after the Amcu rejected the producers’ settlement offer.

The companies polled workers through text messages and voice mail on whether they wanted return to work.

“We do not believe such a list could have come from Lonmin or that it’s linked to the SMS campaign,” Happy Nkhoma, a spokesman for the no. 3 platinum producer, said by phone today.

SMS is a local term for text message.

“We have not seen the list. The SMSs are not linked to union affiliation. We believe it’s a tactic to instill further fear in our employees.”

The situation at Lonmin’s mines this morning is calm, Nkhoma said.

The Amcu wants basic monthly pay, without benefits, to be more than doubled for entry-level underground employees to 12,500 rand by 2017.

The union’s demand would equate to a 30 percent increase in the first year of the agreement, which the companies say is unaffordable.

They’re offering raises of as much as 10 percent annually.


Chief Executive Apology


Anglo Platinum chief executive Chris Griffith on May 16 apologised for comments he made to Johannesburg-based newspaper Business Day relating to his pay and a bonus plan in which 12 managers and directors at the no. 1 producer stand to earn as much as 25.3 million rand in the next three years if they meet targets.

“Must I run this company and deal with all this nonsense for nothing,” Griffith said, according to Business Day’s May 14 edition.

“I’m at work. I am not on strike. I am not demanding to be paid what I am not worth.”

In his May 16 letter, Griffith said his choice of words was “inappropriate and a poor way to describe the extremely challenging situation we find ourselves in.

Further, the seemingly insensitive timing of bonus-scheme announcements has been determined by JSE reporting regulations coinciding with the prolonged strike.”

Anglo Platinum is seeing an increasing number of employees returning to work, Mpumi Sithole, a spokeswoman for the company, said by e-mail, without disclosing attendance figures. - Bloomberg News

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