Platinum giant Lonmin eased off its threat to fire miners who failed to return to work today, as South Africa identified the last of the 44 people killed during a wildcat strike.

About one-third of Lonmin’s 28,000 employees at the Marikana platinum mine reported for work today, the company said, although production has yet to resume pending the completion of safety checks.

The world’s third-largest platinum miner had threatened to sack the 3,000 rock drill operators who launched an illegal strike on August 10, but later dropped the ultimatum, conceding that mass firings would do little to ease tensions.

“We all agreed that it would not be helpful for an ultimatum in a time of mourning based on the events that happened last week,” said company spokeswoman Sue Vey.

The Government and unions had urged Lonmin to allow more time for families to grieve the 44 people killed in strike-related violence, with the last victim identified only today.

Thirty-four of the dead were gunned down on Thursday by police, who had been called in to quell inter-union clashes that earlier killed 10.

Methodist Bishop Paul Verryn gathered today with three dozen men and women clad in red and black church uniforms at the scene of the police crackdown.

“We came to mourn and show solidarity with the poor. People who put their lives on the line digging the precious minerals hidden beneath this soil,” Verryn said.

“We pray that the events that led to their death will bring some change, especially for those left behind, orphans, widows and co-workers.”

President Jacob Zuma has declared a week of mourning with nationwide memorials planned for Thursday.

Collins Chabane, the chief of the president’s office, said many workers are still afraid of being attacked in inter-union clashes.

“The violence has been there, people have been brutally killed, and as long as people still brandish weapons and people still gather in the manner in which they are doing, people are worried that the violence can still flare up again,” he said.

Over the last week, hundreds of workers have gathered near the mine, often carrying spears, machetes and clubs.

Police said the mineworkers had charged on officers with these weapons and fired some shots, provoking the deadly shooting.

(This article was published on August 22, 2012)
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