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Miners refuse to return to tragedy-hit mine

 Marikana - Workers at South Africa's tragedy-hit mine vowed on Sunday to prolong their wildcat strike as returning to work would be “an insult” to 34 colleagues killed by police.

The scene of Thursday's bloodshed, the worst police violence since apartheid, was deserted as workers at a hostel of the London-listed Lonmin platinum mine said they would press on with their wage demands.

File photo: Miners demonstrate at a mountain close to the Lonmin mine near Rustenburg. Credit: AFP

“Expecting us to go back is like an insult. Many of our friends and colleagues are dead, then they expect us to resume work. Never,” said worker Zachariah Mbewu, adding that no one would return to work as long as they were still in mourning.

“Some are in prison and hospitals. Tomorrow we are going back to the mountain (protest site), not underground, unless management gives us what we want.”

Fiery former ruling party youth leader Julius Malema fanned workers' anger with a speech on Saturday attacking President Jacob Zuma, whom he wants voted out in the African National Congress's year-end party elections.

“President Zuma decided over the massacre of our people, he must step down,” Malema, who was booted out of the ANC in April for fomenting divisions within its ranks, told a crowd.

“It has never happened before that so many people were killed in a single day and it became normal,” he added.

Police maintained a low profile on Sunday at the hostel where workers were going about their daily chores, but the anger level remained high.

“We are waiting for a word from the management,” said Fezile Magxaba, an underground supervisor at the mine.

“Tomorrow we won't return to work unless they listen to our demands of salary increases. People have died, we are angry. If we return it will be like they died in vain,” he said while doing his laundry at a communal tap.

The crackdown Thursday left 34 dead, 78 wounded and 259 detained, according to police.

The toll came on top of 10 already dead, including two police officers, in violence blamed on rivalry between unions during the strike to back demands for a wage rise.

The strike shut down production at the mine, owned by the world's third biggest platinum producer. - Sapa-AFP

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