Gold strike hits South Africa

Around 80,000 gold miners in South Africa have gone on strike calling for higher pay.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is calling for an increase of R2300 for surface and opencast miners and R3000 for underground miners (an increase of around 10 percent), down significantly from earlier demands for increases of up to 60 percent for some workers.

Last week workers rejected an offer of a 6.5 percent rise - the same as the current annual rate of inflation.

"The NUM is determined to pursue its demands for an increase of R2300 for surface and opencast miners and R3000 for underground miners," NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said in a statement. "The NUM has not been willing to undergo industrial action but given the arrogance of the captains of the gold mining industry, the union is forced to embark on nationwide industrial action that will change the gold mining landscape forever. The captains of the industry have continuously awarded themselves huge bonuses with Gold Fields CEO getting R45 million per annum last year."

President Jacob Zuma has urged both sides to find a solution, saying: "A strike hurts both sides."

"The union is aware of the devastating impact industrial action would have on the economy which is largely a white man's economy with no benefits for poor black mineworkers," Seshoka added. "The union reiterates its position of rejecting with contempt slave wages as represented by an increase of a meagre 6.5 percent or R300 per month."

The country was left shocked last year when police shot dead 34 platinum miners during an unofficial strike called by NUM's rival Amcu, which accused the NUM of being too close to the ANC government.

The NUM represents about 65 percent of South Africa's 120,000 gold miners.

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