Rustenburg - Thousands of mineworkers have gathered at Wonderkop Stadium in Marikana, near Rustenburg in North West, in anticipation of an address by their union leaders.
Many arrived in the dozens of buses that came from the neighbouring platinum mines.
As they waited they split into groups and toyi-toyied, brandishing knobkieries and performing traditional war stunts.
Red shirts emblazoned with Julius Malema’s EFF party logo blended with the green of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).
striking miners had gathered in Marikana in an attempt to stop their colleagues from returning to work.
Reports that mine bosses at Anglo Platinum, Lonmin and Impala Platinum intended dispatching buses to ferry staff to work today angered many Amcu members.
Mine security guards and the police blockaded the main road leading into Marikana amid reports that striking miners were pelting passing cars with stones.
At Marikana, hundreds of striking miners converged next to the mine shaft from as early as 4am in an attempt to stop the mining companies from breaking their four-month-long strike.
Three school buses pulled in but made a U-turn before moving on.
Schooling was disrupted when teachers were unable to access the area.
Spokesman for the North West Education Department Brian Setswammbung said teachers at two schools had to return home.
The workers vowed not to return to work unless their wage demands of a minimum of R12 500 across the board were met.
“We want R12 500. Asijiki (we won’t give up),” said Tutlo Kgosiene, a striking miner.
He showed The Star an SMS sent by Lonmin informing workers to return to work.
“Please ignore the previous working times. It should be from 07:00 and end at 16:00 so employees can travel to and from work during working hours. Buses will run from first light,” read one of the text messages.
Workers told The Star that they were being bombarded by SMSes from mine bosses ordering them back to work.
Some said they saw this as “divide and rule tactics” to avoid paying the R12 500.
An early message to workers read: “Thank you to all those Lonmin employees that have responded to our settlement offer.
“We look forward to welcoming you back to work on 14 May. Transport details will be communicated shortly.
“Striking employees who have not yet responded can still indicate their intention to accept the offer – either by sending an SMS with their name, ID number and company number and the word ‘YES’ to 42775; or by sending an e-mail with same details to [email protected] co.za. Employees outside of South Africa must send their SMS to 0027831421004809.”
It emerged last week that Lonmin had decided to restart operations despite Amcu turning down the latest wage offer of 9 percent.
Sporadic acts of violence and intimidation and killings have been reported since the strike started but the violence escalated on Monday when four workers were murdered and several others injured.
The situation was tense on Wednesday morning as workers, mostly those affiliated to the National Union of Mineworkers, returned to work.
A mineworker who did not want to be named said the only people going into the mine were officials – no miners had gone in and the buses that were supposed to collect them had not arrived.
“We don’t know whether it’s true that there are those that accepted the offer. If there are, maybe they are scared of going to work today,” he said.
The source said miners began meeting at 1am, blocking the roads with rocks and burning tyres.
Amcu’s Lonmin chairman Jack Khoba said if miners accepted the offer from the employer they could not remain members.
He said SMSes were the company’s way of intimidating workers into returning to work.
“This is just propaganda from the employer and they won’t succeed. We know the strategy of the management.”
But Lonmin spokesman Happy Nkomo insisted the SMSes were simply an invitation to the workers to return to work.
While he could not say who had accepted Lonmin’s offer, Nkomo said Amcu workers had indicated they would remain on strike.
Several other workers, who did not belong to Amcu, stated that they wanted to return to work.
On Tuesday spokesman for the Ministry of Police David Barritt said the police officers would escort miners who wanted to work today.
“We are going to be escorting buses and increasing patrols along main routes and in residential areas,” Barritt said.
NUM spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu said their members wanted to return to work today.
“As we have said in the past, we are not on strike and want to work. We want Lonmin to provide security arrangements for our members and other employees who want to work. That has not been happening. If Lonmin can guarantee that not a single miner will be killed or assaulted, we will be very happy,” he said.
At least 10 buses ferrying Amcu workers from other mines arrived in Marikana this morning ahead of a public address by their union bosses at the nearby Wonderkop Stadium.