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Ultimatum Issued To South African Miners

(c) Sky News 2012

Striking workers at the Marikana mine in South Africa – where police killed 34 protesters last Thursday – have been told they must return to work today or face the sack.

Some 34 people were shot dead by police on Thursday in one of the worst displays of violence in South Africa since apartheid ended in 1994.

Ten others died and dozens were wounded during outbreaks of violence sparked by a pay dispute.

President Jacob Zuma declared a week of national mourning starting on Monday to commemorate the lives of all South Africans who have died violently, especially those at Marikana mine.

Locals also staged demonstrations at the scene on Sunday, singing hymns and offering prayers for peace.

A spokesman for mine owners Lonmin (Berlin: LRH.BE - news) says the safety and security of its employees is paramount and nobody will be asked to report for duty if the police consider there to be danger of reprisals.

Lonmin chief financial officer Simon Scott said: "As the government has made clear, it is in the interests of our workers and the country, as well as the company, that the mines are operational.

"We all have a long way to go to rebuild trust and try to come to terms with what has happened, but those who rely on us and want to work deserve the chance to do so."

Hundreds of rock-drill operators have been leading the illegal strike among the mine's 25,000-strong labour force. Threats of violence kept many others away and prevented 10,000 contractors from working.

Lonmin had initially ordered miners to return to work by Friday, then, after the shootings, changed the deadline to Monday.

Last year, after a similar dispute over labour representation stopped work at its nearby Karee mine, the company fired all 9,000 workers then it asked them to reapply for their jobs.

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