South Africa releases 50 miners
South Africa has released the first of 270 miners detained more than two weeks ago after police shot dead 34 of their colleagues in a bid to break up a wildcat strike at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine.
The men were charged last week under an obscure apartheid-era security law with murdering their fellow miners, although state prosecutors withdrew the charges at the weekend following a public outcry.
The August 16th shootings were the deadliest security incident since the end of white-minority rule in 1994.
Earlier today South African police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse striking miners at a gold mine near Johannesburg today, the latest outbreak in a wave of labour militancy spreading from platinum mining into other parts of the sector.
In the incident, mine owner Gold One International said about 60 workers at its Modder East site went on a wildcat strike, blocking half the company's employees from reporting for their shifts.
"The group, however, refused to disperse. The South African Police Service had to use tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the group," it said in a statement.
Police spokeswoman Pinky Tsinyane said four people were injured in the incident, which she described as a "shoot-out" between protesting miners, ex-miners and security guards.
"Police are investigating a case of attempted murder," she said, adding that four arrests had been made.
"We understand that the ex-miners were assaulting the miners who were coming to work this morning."
In a separate dispute - but one born of similar social conditions - an illegal strike involving a quarter of the 46,000-strong workforce at the KCD East gold mine, owned by world’s fourth largest bullion producer Gold Fields, entered its third working day.
The government has been trying to broker a peace accord at the Lonmin platinum mine to cool off the feud between two rival unions that lies at the heart of the discord - and which appears to be spreading to other mines.
The Marikana strike stemmed ultimately from a turf struggle in the platinum sector between the dominant National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the small but militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).
Many miners have accused the NUM of caring more about its political connections than about the plight of workers deep underground.
The 3,000 striking Marikana workers are mostly rock drill operators demanding 12,500 rand (€1,190) a month in basic wages, more than double what they receive now.
Labour minister Mildred Oliphant, part of a government committee trying to broker an end to the dispute, raised hopes of a breakthrough by saying management and workers had agreed in principle to sign a two-year wage agreement.