The National Union of Mineworkers accused Anglo American Platinum Monday of "racism" as the impasse between striking miners and the world's top platinum producer escalated.
The NUM alleged that its leader in Rustenburg, the scene of a wildcat strike that brought Amplats' operations to a halt, was called derogatory names by the company's security officials at its Swartklip Union mine in Limpopo province. The official was racially abused Monday together with a journalist for the South African Broadcasting Corporation, the union charged in a statement.
The union's attempts to intercede on behalf of miners fired last week by Amplats had been thwarted, said NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka.
"It has become very clear that the company promotes racism through procuring security and other services from racists and their companies and that it has no intention to empower African people," Seshoka said. "The company has a week ago embarked on mass dismissals and was in the process of doing the same at Swartklip when the NUM leaders sought to intervene and speak to members only to be met with imported racism of a special type."
Mpumi Sithole, a spokeswoman for Amplats, declined to comment on this matter.
Amplats, a subsidiary of the London-listed Anglo Platinum, last week dismissed 12,000 striking miners for staging a wildcat strike and later failing to attend disciplinary hearings. The mineworkers have since threatened to make the mines ungovernable, saying it will be impossible for the company to hire new workers.
The miners are determined to fight for their jobs, said strike leader Evans Ramokga Monday.
About 80,000 miners, or 16 percent of South Africa's total mine workforce, are currently on strike across South Africa in work stoppages that have serious economic implications for South Africa. The labor unrest is damaging the country's reputation as an investment destination, say economists. South Africa produces 75 percent of the world's platinum and is the No. 4 chrome producer and the fifth-biggest gold producer.
There seems to be no end in sight to the turmoil, which originated in the platinum sector and has since spread to gold, coal and iron ore mines as well as to the road freight sector. Some 20,000 truckers demanding a 22 percent pay raise are currently staging a strike that threatens the supply of gas and groceries. The striking truckers now say they might intensify their campaign by inviting rail and port workers if employers do not meet their wage demands.