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Striking South African Miners Refuse Company Deadline

- Common Dreams staff

Striking South African miners continued their face off with mining company Lonmin on Monday, after the company gave the strikers a choice of returning to work or immediate dismissal. Three-quarters of the workers have refused the ultimatum at the mining site where 44 miners were killed in total last week by police over the strike.

Mine workers outside the Lonmin mine near Rustenburg, South Africa: about 3,000 strikers were told to turn up to work or face the sack. (Guardian: Photo: Themba Hadebe/AP) Miner Kaizer Madiba stated: "People have died already so we have nothing more to lose … we are going to continue fighting for what we believe is a legitimate fight for living wages. We would rather die like our comrades than back down."

A rock-driller told the Guardian: "It's better to die than to work for that shit … I am not going to stop striking. We are going to protest until we get what we want. They have said nothing to us. Police can try and kill us but we won't move."

Last week's deadliest clash, in which South African police opened fire on the strikers killing 34, drew comparisons with apartheid-era brutality by news outlets covering the scene. At least 78 people were injured and around 250 people were arrested. 10 others were killed in separate incidences over the course of the week.

Nonetheless, a statement from mine owner Lonmin said the 3,000 workers were striking illegally and must report to work on Monday.

According to Lonmin, around 27% of the workers arrived for their shifts Monday morning, but it is not clear how many of these were among those who went on strike last week. At least three-quarters of the miners remained on strike in defiance of the ultimatum.

"Expecting us to go back is like an insult. Many of our friends and colleagues are dead, then they expect us to resume work. Never," worker Zachariah Mbewu told Agence France-Presse.

He said workers would only go back when management gave them what they sought -- livable wages.

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