File image: Reuters

Thousands of workers gathered near Anglo American Platinum's (Amplats) Thembelani Mine in Rustenburg on Wednesday to demand a wage increase, as protests in the mining sector continued to spread.

The protesters said they were demanding a monthly wage of R12,500, the same as other protesting miners at the nearby Lonmin-owned mines.

“We have been observing our colleagues strike. We also want that R12,500 and we are going to get it,” said an elderly protester wielding a knobkerrie. He declined to be named for fear of reprisal.

Most of the protesters sat in a field under a scorching sun. Small groups, clutching sticks and clubs, marched, sang and danced.

Two police Nyalas were parked near the protesters and police monitored the crowd. A police helicopter hovered overhead.

Some men arrived at the scene wearing ANC Youth League regalia. They joined the protesters, but declined to speak to the media about their role in the strike.

On Wednesday, Amplats said its workers had been “re-directed” from the mine because of intimidation.

“To ensure the safety and security of our employees, management took the decision to re-direct employees to a neutral place,” Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said in a statement.

Sithole denied that the company had been hit by a strike, and said its workers were being prevented from working by intimidation.

“We confirm that yesterday (Tuesday), some of our employees were unable to clock in for night shift due to fear of intimidation and threats by unidentified individuals in and around our Rustenburg operations.”

She said “widespread cases” had been reported of intimidation against Amplats workers throughout the Rustenburg area.

Sithole did not say how many workers had been sent to a neutral place or how severely operations at the Rustenburg mine had been affected.

Further comment from Amplats was not immediately available.

The protests at the Amplats Rustenburg mine also resulted in the suspension of a two-day mine auction scheduled to begin on Thursday.

Auctioneer Aucor said in a statement that it was cancelling the auction of redundant and obsolete assets because of striking miners and labour unrest.

“Furthermore, as a precaution, upcoming auctions due to take place at the Kloof and Driefontein mines next week have also been postponed,” the company said. - Sapa