One man was torched and another shot as mine workers clashed with police Thursday morning. In a confrontation between police and about 400 of the 12,000 striking miners who were fired by the Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) mine last week, police unleashed rubber bullets in an effort to disperse the crowd gathered near Rustenburg, 70 miles NW of Johannesburg.
According to Al Jazeera, the police were apparently responding to the miners' attempt to stop operations at Amplats' Bathopele mine. Gaddafi Mdoda, a leader of the striking Amplats mineworkers, told the Associated Press that one striker died in a hospital after being hit by two rubber bullets.
Meanwhile, the South African Press Association, reports that two taxis transporting people to work were set on fire by striking workers. One man died of burn wounds, North West police spokesman Thulani Ngubane confirmed. By the end of the skirmish, police arrested over 40 people for public violence.
"The mine workers have vowed to make the mines ungovernable and to make it impossible for the world's top platinum producer to hire new workers if their wage demands are not met," the Globe and Mail reports. Evans Ramokga, a strike leader, said that the company would hire new workers only 'over our dead bodies.'
The death toll of this national conflict has now risen to more than 50. Since August, 100,000 workers across South Africa— including 75,000 in the mining sector—have been protesting for better wages.
Also Thursday morning, striking gold miners rejected the industry's latest wage offer, reported Reuters, "dimming hopes that strikes that have led to dozens of deaths and paralyzed the sector could end soon."
"This was a final offer from the companies. They said take it or leave it," Lesiba Seshoka, spokesman for the National Union of Mineworkers said. "Now that it has been rejected our options have been exhausted."
The South African government estimates that gold and platinum production worth 4.5 billion rand ($517 million) has been lost to strikes, so far.
"Beyond mining," Reuters added, "wage talks with the main union behind a three-week truck driver strike that has hit supplies of fuel, cash and consumer goods, collapsed again this week. Port and rail workers are expected to join their colleagues in a one-day sympathy protest next week."