Miners defy police barricades

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Poloko Tau and Sapa

Striking Lonmin workers embarked on a march this morning that defied attempts by police to prevent them from invading the town of Marikana.

The police had set up their armoured Nyalas and a water cannon across the street as a barricade, but about 2 000 miners, singing and holding sticks, simply walked around and between them as they headed to Marikana. As the police realised that their attempts to stop the march were having no effect, they gave up on blocking the street and instead escorted the marchers.

Police and private security helicopters hovered above Marikana, monitoring the striking miners as they rushed through Marikana, with more men joining in.

The men said they decided to move from their usual meeting place in Nkaneng informal settlement near Wonderkop to march instead to Lonmin’s Karee Mine to force those on duty to down tools and join them in their cause.

Led by police Nyalas, the miners planned to make their way through Marikana and walk the 5km to Karee.

The miners remain immovable on their position that they will not return to work until Lonmin has committed to giving them the R12 500 salary they have been demanding since their strike began almost a month ago.

Nyalas lined the entrances to mine operation sites as well as Karee shafts, where marching miners were headed.

Lonmin said employees who reported for duty last week were intimidated by striking miners.

Since last week, work attendance has dropped to less than 10 percent of the almost 30 000-strong workforce, Lonmin said.

Security was tightened at the Marikana mine in anticipation of the march, with additional mine security guards and police on patrol from dawn today.

Yesterday about 200 miners met at the Karee mine’s Shaft 30, and tried to get their colleagues to stop working. Another march was then planned for today.

Talks between worker representatives, unions, the Labour Department and management were expected to resume this afternoon in Rustenburg.

Workers have been on strike for three weeks, demanding a monthly salary of R12 500.

On August 16, police fired on a group of protesters near the mine, killing 34 and wounding 78.

Another 10 people were killed earlier that week, including two policemen and two security guards.

At the time of going to press the march was under way and no violence had been reported.

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