The all-black National Union of Mineworkers today called off its violence-marred strike at gold and coal mines in South Africa after 5,000 striking miners were ordered fired.
The union said it was calling off the work stoppage that began Sunday to bring a civil suit challenging what it called the “unlawful” eviction and firing of miners.
“This application will be a test case and will have far-reaching implications for the protection of striking workers who follow the procedures for a legal strike,” said NUM Secretary General Cyril Ramaphosa.
The union, accusing owners of intimidating workers with force, said 21,000 miners struck five mines today, but operators said the strike dwindled throughout the day and at most only 7,500 men were off the job.
Mass Backing Missing
The union did not say when or if the strike would resume, but it was clear that the strike call, originally made to 70,000 men working in seven mines, failed to win mass backing.
Union leaders said earlier owners had turned gold and coal mines into “army camps” and were using force and mass dismissals to crush the strike by black miners.
The Gold Field Corp. said it had begun to “process 5,000 terminations” at the Deelkraal installation after the men failed to show for work but it was not clear if they were being fired immediately.
Union officials said at least 14 miners had been injured by police and private security officials firing shotguns, rubber bullets and tear gas since the strike over wages began Sunday and that at least 88 miners and strike organizers had been arrested.
‘Dogs, Bullets, Gas’
“They have been faced with dogs, baton charges, rubber bullets and tear gas,” a spokeswoman for the union said earlier today. “They have started dismissals. There are mass sackings. We didn’t expect the mines to be turned into army camps.”
Ramaphosa, who had threatened to call about 350,000 miners out in sympathy with the strikers, today conceded that response to the strike call had weakened.
Spokeswoman Manoko Nchwe said the union stood by its charge, denied by mining company officials, that miners had been marched to work at gunpoint and others whipped or beaten.
“Since yesterday, strikers have not been given food and they have been prevented from going out to get their own food,” said a union official in Witbank, about 50 miles from Johannesburg. “Water supplies have been stopped at the Koornfontein hostel,” where miners are housed.
The movement in the strike coincided with continuing racial unrest. In Cape Town, police said 29 people of mixed race--called “Colored” under the white-minority government’s apartheid policy of racial segregation--were arrested for arson and rioting during the night.
Authorities said mixed-race youths barricaded streets, robbed motorists, torched buildings and assaulted pedestrians in the latest outbreak in anti-apartheid violence that has killed at least 32 people in Cape Town during the past week.