23/08/12 Mine workers singing and heading to the hilltop after the memorial service and special prayers for the dead miners at Wonderkop in Rustenburg North West. Photo: Leon Nicholas

Police on Monday patrolled the area around South Africa's Lonmin platinum mine as workers trickled back to work more than two weeks into a wildcat strike that has claimed 44 lives.

Police officers frequently stopped to question people walking in groups and armed private security guards controlled access to the mine where the morning underground shift started at 05:00 SA time).

“I came to see if it is safe to return to work. Police have advised us not to mill around in groups around the mine, they say it is for our safety, “ said Johannes Ndebele outside a shaft entrance.

“I decided to return to work because the strike has not been successful, but other people back in the hostel want to continue with the strike. They say they want money first,” he added.

The world's number three platinum producer is hoping most of its 28,000 workers will clock in, after promising signs at the weekend in the stand-off over demands by rock drill operators for a 300-percent pay rise.

The stayaway since August 10 spiralled into clashes blamed on inter-union rivalry which killed 10 people, before police gunned down 34 strikers after failing to disperse protesters.

A fresh round of talks to break up the stand-off are lined up for Monday, when more than 250 people will appear in court on charges ranging from murder to public violence.

Government brokered discussions with unions, including the main National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and breakaway the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), will also continue on Wednesday.

The meeting will aim “to commit ourselves, particularly the unions, to say that whenever there are strikes, there will be no violence,” Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant told SAFM public radio.

The minister hoped that workers would return on Monday, saying some wanted to return but “the challenge is that some of them are being threatened”.

The state had asked the company to give workers time to bury the dead, she said. - Sapa-AFP