One miner has been killed in clashes between police and striking workers at a South African platinum mine, witnesses said Friday, as President Jacob Zuma appealed for calm.
“Yesterday (Thursday) the cops shot many people, but one of them is dead, even the dead body is still there where he was shot yesterday, it has not yet been taken (away),” Gaddhafi Mdoda, a witness and workers’ activist at the Anglo American-owned mine told AFP.
Circumstances surrounding the killing in the northwestern town of Rustenburg remain unclear, but police had on Thursday fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse a group of striking workers gathered on a hill near the mine.
Police spokesman Thulani Ngubane told AFP they had received reports of the death and were investigating.
“At this stage we are busy on a manhunt to see if we can recover the body,” he said, but added that “the situation is tense… anything can happen.”
On Friday morning around 300 miners gathered outside a nearby stadium to voice their protest. Police in armoured vehicles were positioned at a distance from the venue.
Some 28,000 workers have been on a strike at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world’s top platinum producer, since September 12 demanding higher wages.
A recent lorry drivers protest brought the number of striking workers across the country to roughly 100,000, according to an AFP tally.
With the country in crisis, Zuma late Thursday said the often-times violent work stoppages must end if the continent’s largest economy is to attract more investment and grow.
“We should not seek to portray ourselves as a nation that is perpetually fighting,” he told captains of commerce, just days after global ratings agency Moody’s downgraded South Africa’s credit rating.
Zuma said business and labour needed “to ensure shop floor peace and stability in the country, in order for us to continue the collective responsibility of promoting economic growth and development.”
“We wish the parties well as they negotiate to solve both the mining and truck driver strikes,” said Zuma.
The crisis began with a deadly wildcat work stoppage by 28,000 miners at a Lonmin platinum mine in August.
The strike ended with an up to 22 percent pay rise, but not before 46 people had died.
The pay rises have emboldened other workers in the strike-prone country.
Since then strikes have been spreading from platinum to gold mining and other sectors.
Analysts have warned that the strikers demands will result in job losses in the country where one in every four employable people is out of a job.
On Thursday major gold miners and unions agreed to review wages and pay grades for entry-level workers.