FOCHVILLE, South Africa (AP) â¿¿ Ernest Morake shook his head and laughed when he heard that South Africa's president wanted striking miners to return to work.
"He doesn't know anything about the mines," Morake said Thursday of South African President Jacob Zuma.
In a speech on the state of the economy on Wednesday, Zuma said wildcat strikes were damaging South Africa's economy and asked striking miners to immediately return to work.
But miners like Morake are not listening to Zuma, who is widely regarded by many across South Africa's mining belts as aloof to their practical concerns.
"We are not going to go back to work without the money," said Morake, who is 27 years old and the father of two children.
Morake was one of thousands of striking AngloGold Ashanti employees who gathered on a rocky hill near Fochville, in the country's North West province, on Thursday to march and sing in the latest demonstration of their staying power. Even as the employers are threatening the loss of jobs, and though money lenders are no longer giving loans, many striking miners feel that the employers have the most to lose from a protracted stalemate.
"We are not going to quit until we get the right offer," said a miner who gave his name as Manyane who is among the AngloGold Ashanti employees demanding at least 18,500 rand (about $2,100) in monthly pay, an increase from the 4,000 rand (about $450) per month they say they now get paid. "We are peaceful. But if they fire us and hire other people then that will start violence. If they do that we are going to war."
Strike action at gold and platinum mines had cost the country about 4.5 billion rand (more than $500 million) in lost output by mid-September, Zuma told a meeting of businessmen in Johannesburg last week. Citing the impact of unresolved strikes in the crucial mining sector, the credit rating agencies S&P and Moody's have downgraded South Africa's credit rating.