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Threats of firing miners dropped

PRETORIA — Mining giant Lonmin has dropped its threat to fire workers who failed to return to work at a South African mine after deadly clashes last week.

The decision came after the South African government appealed to the firm to withdraw the ultimatum for workers at the Marikana mine.

Last week, police shot dead 34 strikers at the mine.

The country’s parliament is due to debate the killings today, amidst a national outcry.

President Jacob Zuma has a declared a week of national mourning and has promised to appoint a commission of inquiry into the shooting.

Mark Munroe, Lonmin’s executive vice president, said firing thousands of workers would not necessarily ease tension.

“I don’t think it’s going to contribute to a more stable environment if Lonmin goes out and puts deadlines and ultimatums and says we will fire everyone if no-one comes to work,” he said.

A minister in Zuma’s office, Collins Chabane, said Lonmin had agreed to suspend its ultimatum in talks with the government.

“I think we need to try to temper the flare-up of emotions on all sides and try to find a reasonable solution to address the problems,” he said on local radio, AFP news agency reports.

Lonmin said 33 per cent of its 28,000-strong workforce showed up for work today, the South African Press Association reports.

Senior opposition party members visited the mine in North West province ahead of a special parliamentary sitting that will debate the incident, South Africa’s Mail and Guardian newspaper reported.

“We have heard the workers concerns and we have familiarised ourselves with the situation. We will now be in a better position to ask the right questions in parliament,” opposition United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa is quoted as saying.

About 3,000 rock-drill operators walked out more than a week ago in support of demands for higher pay. (BBC)

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