Protesting miners stop South African president’s speech

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RUSTENBURG, South Africa — South African President Cyril Ramaphosa walked out of his Workers’ Day speech in the northwestern city of Rustenburg on Sunday when striking miners stormed the stage.

Workers employed by the Sibanye-Stillwater mine are demanding a wage increase of 1,000 rand ($63) per month instead of the 850 rand ($54) offered by the mine.

Ramaphosa had decided to mark Workers’ Day, a public holiday in South Africa to mark May 1, by giving a speech to union members in Rustenburg, a mining hub.

Ramaphosa was booed as he began his speech with a call for striking workers and other members of the South African Trades Union Congress to calm down and listen to what he had to say.

“We heard you want your 1,000 rand. We will deal with that matter,” Ramaphosa told the protesting workers.

Shortly after, Ramaphosa was forced to abandon his speech altogether when angry miners stormed the field and overwhelmed the police surrounding the stage at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium. Ramaphosa security guards took him away from the scene.

Striking workers have been further angered in recent days by reports that Sibanye-Stillwater chief executive Neal Froneman earned more than 300 million rand ($19 million) in 2021 in wage payments and schemes. of company shares.

Rustenburg, in the North West Province, is a tumultuous area for Ramaphosa and the ruling South African African National Congress party. Many unionists continue to blame them for the Marikana massacre, where 34 miners were shot dead by police during a strike at the Lonmin mine in 2012, when Ramaphosa was a non-executive director of Lonmin.

Sunday’s tumultuous scene indicates the challenges Ramaphosa faces later this year in his bid to be re-elected as head of the ANC, as the unions are a key constituency of the party.

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