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Black Miners’ Union Warns Strike Could Spread

February 26, 1986

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Strike talks resumed today at the world’s second-largest gold mine, where a union official said all 40,000 black miners may walk out if police do not release workers held in connection with the deaths of four supervisors.

About 12,000 black miners remained off the job today at the Vaal Reefs gold mine about 100 miles west of Johannesburg.

Although 3,000 miners returned to work today, 3,000 night-shift workers joined the walkout Tuesday, keeping the total number of striking miners at 12,000, according to a spokesman for the Anglo American Corp., which owns the mine.

Elsewhere, spokesmen for two coal mines said about 2,100 miners also walked off their jobs Tuesday in separate disputes.

In Pretoria, police headquarters said rioting broke out in the black township of Tembisa, northeast of Johannesburg, and that a man was killed when youths hurled a gasoline bomb into a bus. Stone-throwing and firebombings were reported in six other black communities around the country, but no other deaths were reported.

Officials of the National Union of Mineworkers, the black miners union, met informally today with workers and management at Vaal Reefs to try to resolve the conflict, both sides said.

The strike began when workers demanded the release of eight blacks detained by police in connection with the killing at the mine of four black team leaders last week. The four were attacked in their residential hostel on the mine premises, the mine spokesman said.

Vaal Reefs produces about 13 percent of South Africa’s annual gold output, second only to Free State Consolidated Gold Mines. Vaal Reefs employs 45,000 people, including 5,000 whites, and the union has said that all 40,000 black miners ultimately may join the walkout unless the workers’ demand is met.

Workers in three of the mine’s nine underground shafts have joined the strike so far.

Gold mines in the rich belt west of Johannesburg have had work stoppages periodically in recent months. The companies claim they involve various factions among the miners and are not related to the violent campaign against apartheid.

In Alexandra, where bloody rioting last week left at least 23 dead, activists said a mass funeral would be held next Wednesday. A committee of Alexandra union members decided on the mid-week date to keep people home from work and make employers aware of the turmoil in black areas.

More than 1,100 people, nearly all of them black, have been killed in 17 months of almost daily anti-apartheid rioting across the country, private monitoring groups say. About two-thirds have been killed by police and soldiers, and the rest slain in black in-fighting, mainly killings of suspected ″collaborators″ with the white-led government.

Tembisa, the closest black township to Alexandra, has been tense since the Alexandra rioting and residents have reported increasing skirmishes between youths and riot patrols.

Meanwhile, in the first case of its kind, a white South African convicted of joining black guerrillas battling the white-led government was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in prison.

Eric William Pelser, 21, was convicted Monday of treason and of possessing the drug LSD and banned literature. He pleaded innocent to the treason and banned-literature charges but guilty to the drug charge.

Transvaal Province Supreme Court Judge L.F. Weyers said he was imposing the relatively light sentence of seven years because of Pelser’s immaturity.

Some blacks, including jailed ANC leader Nelson Mandela, have received life sentences for treason convictions.

The government has said it has proof that whites have been involved in ANC attacks within the country, but none has been convicted.

Since 1961 the outlawed ANC has waged a sabotage war against the government and against apartheid, the policy of racial segregation under which 5 million whites dominate 24 million voteless blacks.

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