At the peak of the wildcat strikes, about 80,000 mineworkers â¿¿ representing 16 percent of the mining workforce â¿¿were striking across South Africa. The wildcat strikes have been marred by violence, most notably an incident on Aug. 16 when police shot and killed 34 miners at a platinum mine in Marikana. Analysts say the Marikana strike may have motivated strike action by mineworkers elsewhere because the Marikana miners in the end succeeded in winning a pay raise of up to 22 percent.
AngloGold Ashanti managers have said they are considering giving the miners an ultimatum: Get back to work or get fired.
Fellow gold-mining company Gold Fields threatened to fire striking miners on Monday if they didn't return to work by Thursday, an ultimatum that saw only some of the thousands of striking employees return to work this week.
Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world's top producer of platinum, two weeks ago dismissed 12,000 striking miners who had staged what the company considered an "unlawful" strike. Those miners have since dug in, threatening to make the company's operations in Rustenburg ungovernable. This week the Congress of South African Trade unions (COSATU) came out strongly in support of the fired miners, saying it would organize protest marches if they were not reinstated by Oct. 27.It remains unclear how these strikes will be resolved. "We call on workers who are engaged in unprotected strikes to return to work as soon as possible and for production in the mining industry to be normalized," Zuma said in his speech on Wednesday. He also called for "a freeze in increases in salary and bonuses over the next 12 months" for executives in the private and public sector in order to "build an equitable economy." For some striking miners, the time to get what they believe is a decent wage is now.