05/09/2012 Striking Lonmin mine workers march past one of the Lonmin Processing Plants during their march. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Dineo Faku

Death threats aimed at management at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine yesterday overshadowed the peace talks.

Hundreds of workers gathered outside the Karee operations, undeterred by the beefed up police and private security detail as they demonstrated in support of a demand for an increment in salary to R12 500 and issued death threats to management.

A Lonmin spokesperson said management had reported the threats to the police. The strikers, carrying knobkieries, sticks and iron rods, pushed their way through police barricades as they marched more than 5km through Marikana to the Karee division.

Sapa reported that five worker representatives told mine manager Jan Thirion that management must close the mine’s K3 shaft by today, or they would end up dead and the mine would be burnt down.

Thirion, who arrived at the gate escorted by two bodyguards, told the representatives to go back to the negotiating table and sign the peace accord.

“Violence doesn’t solve anything. It is not in anyone’s interest.”

Yesterday’s protest had been planned after about 200 mineworkers met at the Easterns operation’s shaft 30 on Tuesday, and tried to get their colleagues to stop working.

In a statement, Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane, who is on the community liaison committee appointed by President Jacob Zuma, said leaders needed to be responsible when making statements.

“The government has a responsibility to maintain law and order and, therefore, will not tolerate any irresponsible and unwarranted provocation from any quarters of our society,” he said.

Only 4.2 percent of Lonmin’s 28 000 employees had reported for duty as they feared intimidation, the company reported. At the close of trade yesterday, Lonmin’s stock had plummeted 4.88 percent to R71.70 on the JSE.

The Lonmin peace talks were held at Rustenburg’s Civic Centre, just kilometres away from the gathering of stick wielding protesters.

The protest was followed by a gathering of thousands of people at the hill in Wonderkop where 34 protesters were killed in a confrontation with police on August 16.

Meanwhile, production at Gold Fields’ Kloof and Driefontein Complex (KDC) mine on the West Rand was due to resume with last night’s shift, after a week-long illegal strike was resolved.

The 12 000 Gold Fields employees agreed to return to work after protesting since last Wednesday against the compulsory deduction of R70 from their salaries towards funeral cover. They had also called for the removal of the branch leadership of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), whom they blamed for the deductions.

NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said earlier yesterday: “The leadership of the NUM has engaged with these workers and their issues and made a commitment that their demands will be investigated and attended to. The workers overwhelmingly agreed to return to work and made a commitment to never again be misled by people with ulterior motives.”

The Gold Fields share price rose by 2.91 percent on the JSE to close at R103.94 after news the strike was ending.

Nick Holland, the chief executive of Gold Fields, said: “While we cannot condone the unlawful nature of the strike, and will implement the no work, no pay and no dismissal principle, we are pleased with the peaceful manner in which our employees conducted the strike.”

Unrest has also been felt on the East Rand, where four people were wounded with rubber bullets shot by security guards at Gold One International’s Modder East mine during an illegal strike on Monday.

Solidarity said yesterday that it had laid charges of incitement to public violence and intimidation against former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, for having stoked unrest at various mines, starting with Marikana. – Additional reporting by Sapa