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Police fire on striking South African miners

Protesting South African miners.

PRETORIA — South African police fired rubber bullets and tear gas today at striking Amplats miners who were protesting against a union-brokered deal to end a six-week wildcat walkout at the top platinum producer.

One protester was dragged away bleeding heavily and unable to walk, and was treated by paramedics, a Reuters witness said.

The strikers at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) mines near Rustenburg, 120 kilometres northwest of Johannesburg, had been due to return to work following an offer by the company to reinstate 12,000 men sacked for downing tools six weeks ago.

Amplats said at the weekend it had reached a deal with several unions and would be offering sweeteners, such as a one-off hardship payment of 2,000 rand (US $230), to end a strike that has crippled production.

A return to work today was one of the conditions attached to the deal.

At the Thembelani mine hundreds of miners barricaded a road to one of the shafts with burning tyres.

“No one is at work today unless they snuck in,” Mayford Mjuza, a worker representative, told Reuters as a police helicopter hovered nearby.

Amplats said it was still gathering details on attendance at its four strike-hit Rustenburg mines.

Months of labour unrest in the mines have hit platinum and gold output, threatened growth in Africa’s biggest economy and drawn criticism of President Jacob Zuma for his handling of the most damaging strikes since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Management threats of mass dismissals and some payment sweeteners have ended some strikes in the last two weeks. (Reuters)

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