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South African miners given ultimatum

Employees at a South African mine where police killed 34 people on Thursday have been ordered back to work. Workers say going back is "like an insult" to the dead, as President Zuma announces a week of mourning.

Platinum giant Lonmin issued a final warning to staff at the Marikana mine site to end their strike, three days after the worst spate of police violence since the apartheid era.

Lonmin told employees on Sunday the call was "a last opportunity to return to work" for employees taking part in the stayaway which stemmed from a conflict between rival unions.

"Employees could therefore be dismissed if they fail to heed the final ultimatum," warned a spokesperson for the world's third largest platinum producer.

Wage demands

Workers at the Marikana mine site who stopped work on August 10 have pledged to continue with their wage demands, saying the calls made for them to return to work was "an insult" to colleagues who were shot dead by police.

"Expecting us to go back to work is like an insult. Many of our friends and colleagues are dead, then they expect us to resume work. Never," said mine worker Zachariah Mbewu.

"Some are in prison and hospitals. Tomorrow we are going back to the mountain [protest site], not underground, unless management gives us what we want," he added.

"Tomorrow we won't return to work unless they listen to our demands of salary increases," said underground mines supervisor Fezile Magxaba.

Week of mourning

Lonmin has given workers until Monday to conform to their demands, coinciding with the start of a week of mourning announced by President Jacob Zuma on Sunday.

Flags will be at half mast and an official day for nationwide memorial services will be held on Thursday.

"The nation is in shock and in pain. We must, this week, reflect on the sanctity of human life and the right to life as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic," Zuma said.

The crackdown left 44 dead, 78 wounded, and 259 being taken into custody over the past nineteen days of conflict.

jlw / jm (AFP, Reuters)