South Africa's government and striking miners hardened their stances yesterday, with miners at a Lonmin platinum mine rejecting a wage offer far below their demand and President Jacob Zuma's government vowing to halt the miners' illegal protests.
The bitter, bloody strike at Lonmin's Marikana mine has taken the lives of 45 people and has spread to two other mines. Miners are calling on co-workers to shut down mines across the country, raising fears for the future of South Africa's biggest industry.
The strikers turned down Lonmin's offer of a 900 rand (£67) increase that would give new-entry workers a basic monthly salary of 5,500 rand (£412), their leaders said. Strikers' representatives, mining unions, Lonmin company officials and government officials prepared to continue negotiations yesterday.
Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, meanwhile, warned that the government would clamp down on the daily illegal marches by miners brandishing machetes, spears and clubs that have marked the strike. He told a news conference that "the government will no longer tolerate illegal gatherings and brandishing of weapons in this way".
The strike spread this week to the world's largest platinum miner, Anglo American Platinum, and has also stopped work at a Gold Fields mine.
Strikers complained that Thursday night's offer, the first presented by Lonmin since workers shut down the world's third-largest platinum mine on 10 August, falls far below their demands for a minimum salary of 12,500 rand (£935).
Of the 45 people killed, 34 strikers were shot dead by police in a shocking display of state violence that has traumatised the nation of 48 million. On Thursday, police said they had identified the latest body found this week as that of a shop steward of the National Union of Mineworkers, the industry's largest, which is allied with the governing African National Congress.