South Africa's mine owners flex their muscles

Striking mine workers gather outside the Anglo American mine on 5 October 2012 in Rustenburg. South Africa

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The mass dismissals by Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) appear to be the most assertive move yet by management in a wider industrial crisis that has sent shock waves through South Africa's vital mining sector.

In one sense Anglo American is simply reinforcing the tough line it has taken across the board against illegal, unsanctioned, and often violent strike action here.

It is a move that will enrage some.

The African National Congress's Youth League has already called it "irrational and illogical" and accused Amplats of spitting "on the graves of those who have lost their lives in the current mining climate".

Start Quote

There's no way they could recruit and train another 12,000 workers. Anglo will try to rehire those it wants to keep”

End Quote Loane Sharp Labour analyst

But for others, the move may be seen as a bold - and strategically wise - attempt to defend the carefully constructed and heavily politicised system of collective bargaining, which has been at the heart of South African labour policy since the end of apartheid and which has, over the past few weeks, seemed on the brink of collapse.

The immediate priority for South Africa is to find a way to prevent the labour unrest becoming a contagion that could even spread to the country's vital public services sectors.

In the longer term, many analysts believe that mine owners will give in to higher wage demands, but only by laying off tens, or possibly even hundreds of thousands of workers in a country already struggling with dangerously high levels of unemployment.

As for the dismissals at Amplats - labour analyst Loane Sharp suspects there may be less to the move than meets the eye.

"It's a hollow threat… a not uncommon tactic in South Africa," he said.

"There's no way they could recruit and train another 12,000 workers.

"Anglo will try to rehire those it wants to keep. It won't reappoint everyone."

Andrew Harding Article written by Andrew Harding Andrew Harding Africa correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    The problem here seems to be that the union officers are more interested in keeping their cosy life than improving that of their members. It has happened before elsewhere in the world and will doubtless continue to happen.

    Where was Mr Vavi when all this started? Campaigning for re-election perhaps? Now he's re-elected, he reappears. Strange that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    In SA there is little rule of law, it is corrupt within its institutions, its not competitive and its labour policies are stifling any growth or competition. Combat these things and you have a winning formula.

    Note that the SA news services are not reporting on the Rand exchange rate dropping massively (4% drop to USD). Might be going crazy, but think there's a news blanket showing in SA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Lets hope cooler heads can prevail. Lets hope that the miners don't get carried away with their demands and end up shooting themselves in the foot by crippling the industry that they rely on for their living. This could easily spread throughout the continent and halt the economic growth being occurring in most mining countries in Africa.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    9 GM : It's called corruption and comes in many guises. Giving money to a Union Official to accommodate the Corps interests over that of the workers is not unusual
    Congress are being corrupted by Super PAC money to write legislation & put add on's like they did so Halliburton can pollute the US aquifer and not be prosecuted.
    It is a World Wide Problem and must be deal with peacefully
    Learn & go on

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    The Miners are frustrated, they are dealing with Greed
    Corporate greed that will hold them down and do anything to keep them working as cheap as possible
    Peaceful Protest is difficult
    But necessary to maintain integrity
    I wish all of the miners the best of luck
    You are fighting the fight of the just, do it with peace and you WILL prevail
    Love to you all from my heart!


Comments 5 of 17



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