Demonstrating miners stop speech by South African President

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RUSTENBURG, South Africa – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa gave his Labor Day speech in the northwestern city of Rustenburg on Sunday when striking miners stormed the scene.

The workers employed at 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 center.

Ramaphosa was hailed as he began his speech by urging the striking workers and other members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions to calm down and listen to what he had to say.

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

Shortly afterwards, Ramaphosa was forced to abandon his speech altogether as angry miners stormed the pitch and overwhelmed police around the stage at Royal Bafokeng Stadium. Ramaphosa’s security guards took him away from the venue.

The striking workers have become even more angry in recent days over reports that Sibanye-Stillwater’s CEO, Neal Froneman, earned more than $ 300 million ($ 19 million) in 2021 in payroll and corporate share schemes.

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

The tumultuous scene on Sunday indicates the challenges Ramaphosa faces later this year in his bid to be re-elected as leader of the ANC, as the unions are a key circle in the party.

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