RUSTENBURG, South Africa — The world's biggest platinum producer, Anglo American Platinum, sacked 12,000 striking workers in South Africa Friday, just hours after one miner was killed in clashes with police. Meanwhile a union leader in nearby Marikana was shot dead in the evening, his union said.
"A branch secretary of the union at Western Platinum was shot and killed at his house in Marikana this (Friday) evening," said National Union of Mineworkers spokesman Lesiba Seshoka in a statement.
Anglo American Platinum said the miners failed to appear before disciplinary hearings "and have therefore been dismissed in their absence".
It is the latest crisis to hit South Africa's vital minerals sector, which has been crippled by a wave of violent disputes over miners' pay since August.
Around 28,000 Amplats workers have been on strike for three weeks at the firm's sprawling facilities in the northern town of Rustenburg, which account for around a quarter of world platinum production.
The company said the strike had so far cost 700 million rand ($80 million, 60 million euro) in lost revenue. In a bid to halt further losses, Amplats on Monday warned wildcat strikers that they would be sacked if they failed to attend hearings. It has now made good on that promise.
"Despite the company's repeated calls for employees to return to work, we have continued to experience attendance levels of less than 20 percent," Amplats said in a statement. Workers, some of whom received SMS messages from Amplats informing them of the news, reacted with a mixture of shock and defiance. "If they fired us, no problem," said Claudio, aged 37, from Mozambique. "We are going to market ourselves somewhere else."
Others were more circumspect. "Now what is going to happen?" asked a worried 21-year-old miner from the eastern province of Mpumalanga, who had not gone to work because of the threat of violence from colleagues.
But with many miners unwilling to give up their demands for higher pay and Amplats taking a tough line, the spectre of violence loomed.
In August, 46 people died during a strike at the Lonmin platinum mine in nearby Marikana. "Things now are tuning to a point," said Gaddhafi Mdoda a worker and activist, "they are leaving us with no choice."
At least six people have been killed around Rustenburg in strike-related violence this week. Late Thursday one miner was killed when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a group of 300 illegal strikers protesting on a hilltop close to the mines.
The independent police watchdog is investigating the man's death "as the incident appeared to have arisen from police action", according to police spokeswoman Emelda Setlhako. "The crowd began stoning the police who then had to use stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them," spokesman Setlhako said in a statement. The victim has not been officially identified, but colleagues told AFP the man, in his late 40s, was from the rural Eastern Cape province and had been a rock drill operator at the Bleskop shaft.
On Friday police cordoned off the hill with red tape as investigators examined the scene, while strikers barricaded roads close by with tyres and rocks. "The situation is tense," said local police spokesman Thulani Ngubane. With around 100,000 workers currently on strike across the country, President Jacob Zuma -- who has publically kept his distance from the crisis -- on Thursday called for the work stoppages to end.
Speaking to business leaders in Johannesburg, he warned the strikes would hurt South Africa's ability to attract more investment and growth.
"We should not seek to portray ourselves as a nation that is perpetually fighting."
Investors, already spooked by earlier violence, warned Friday's dismissals could deepen a crisis that has already paralysed an industry that accounts for around 20 of South Africa's GDP.
"The government is doing nothing," said Peter Attard Montalto, a strategist with Japanese bank Nomura, who warned the strikes had already shaved 0.2 to 0.3 percent off third quarter growth.
The South African rand sank against the dollar on news of renewed violence.
Analysts have warned that the strikers' demands will result in job losses in the country where one in every four employable people is already out of work.
Amplats will hope Friday's high-stakes gambit gives them the leverage needed to end the unrest.
In February, Amplats' rival Impala Platinum fired 17,000 workers, only to rehire them a few weeks later as part of a wage agreement.
Amplats on Friday indicated it was open to "exploring the possibility of bringing forward wage negotiations within our current agreements".
American killed in Libya protest over anti-Islam film. The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other embassy staff were killed in a rocket attack on their car, a Libyan official said, as they were rushed from a consular building stormed by militants denouncing a U.S.-made film insulting the Prophet Mohammad.
Gunmen had attacked and burned the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, a center of last year's uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, late on Tuesday evening, killing one U.S. consular official. The building was evacuated.
The Libyan official said the ambassador, Christopher Stevens, was being driven from the consulate building to a safer location when gunmen opened fire.
"The American ambassador and three staff members were killed when gunmen fired rockets at them," the official in Benghazi told Reuters.
There was no immediate comment from the State Department in Washington. U.S. ambassadors in such volatile countries are accompanied by tight security, usually travelling in well-protected convoys. Security officials will be considering whether the two attacks were coordinated.
Libyan deputy prime minister Mustafa Abu Shagour condemned the killing of the U.S. diplomats as a cowardly act.
A vehicle and the surrounding area are engulfed in flames after it was set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012.(AFP Photo / STR)
Diplomatic car charred inside the U.S. consulate in Benghazi
The consular official had died after clashes between Libyan security forces and Islamist militants around the consulate building. Looters raided the empty compound and some onlookers took pictures after calm returned.
In neighboring Egypt, demonstrators had torn down an American flag and burned it during the protest. Some tried to raise a black flag with the words "There is no God but God, and Mohammad is his messenger", a Reuters
Demonstrators rip down US flag in Cairo, Egypt. The demonstrations were in response to a film that some say denigrates the Islamic religion
PORTRAYAL OF PROPHET
U.S. pastor Terry Jones, who had inflamed anger in the Muslim world in 2010 with plans to burn the Koran, said he had promoted "Innocence of Muslims", which U.S. media said was produced by an Israeli-American property developer; but clips of another film called "Mohammad, Prophet of Muslims", had been circulating for weeks before the protest.
That film portrayed Mohammad as a fool, a philanderer and a religious fake. In one clip posted on YouTube Mohammad was shown in a sexual act with a woman.
Jones, a pastor in Florida whose latest stunt fell on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, triggered riots in Afghanistan in 2010 with his threat to burn the Koran.
Many Muslims consider any depiction of the Prophet offensive and any depiction of him can cause outbursts of anger in the Islamic world and among Muslims in Europe.
Libya's interim government has struggled to impose its authority on a myriad of armed groups that have refused to lay down their weapons and often take the law into their own hands.
It was clearly overwhelmed by Tuesday night's attack on the consulate that preceded the assault on the ambassador.
"The Libyan security forces came under heavy fire and we were not prepared for the intensity of the attack," said Abdel-Monem Al-Hurr, spokesman for Libya's Supreme Security Committee.
In Benghazi, unidentified men had shot at the consulate buildings, while others threw handmade bombs into the compound, setting off small explosions.
On Wednesday morning, the compound stood empty, with passers-by freely walking in to take a look at the damage.
Walls were charred and a small fire burned inside one of the buildings. A small group of men was trying to extinguish the flames and three security men briefly surveyed the scene.
A Reuters reporter saw chairs, table and food lying alongside empty shells. Some blood stains could also be seen in front of one of the buildings. Three cars were torched.
The crowd of around 2,000 protesters in Cairo was a mixture of Islamists and teenage soccer fans known for fighting police and who played a part in the revolt that toppled Egypt's leader Hosni Mubarak last year.
The fortress-like U.S. mission is near Tahrir Square, where Egypt's uprising began and the scene of many protests since. Youths danced and chanted football songs. A Reuters reporter said they appeared to climb into the embassy compound almost as an afterthought.
"We sacrificed dozens and hundreds during the uprising for our dignity. The Prophet's dignity is more important to us and we are ready to sacrifice millions," said mosque preacher Mohamed Abu Gabal who joined the protest.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a statement late on Tuesday, confirmed the death of the U.S. consular diplomat in Libya, who was not identified, and condemned the attack there; but she made no mention of an attack on the Ambassador's car.
The female wing of a civil rights group is urging women in Togo to stage a week-long sex strike to demand the resignation of the country's president.
Women are being asked to start withholding sex from their husbands or partners as of Monday, said Isabelle Ameganvi, leader of the women's wing of the group Let's Save Togo. She said the strike will put pressure on Togo's men to take action against President Faure Gnassingbe.
Ameganvi, a lawyer, told The Associated Press that her group is following the example of Liberia's women, who used a sex strike in 2003 to campaign for peace.
"We have many means to oblige men to understand what women want in Togo," Ameganvi said.
The sex strike was announced at a rally Saturday of several thousand in the capital city, Lome. The demonstration was organized by a coalition that is protesting recent electoral reforms, which they say will make it easier for Gnassingbe's party to win re-election in the parliamentary polls set for October.
Gnassingbe came to power in 2005, following the death of his father, Eyadema Gnassingbe, who ruled the West African country for 38 years. Gnassingbe has not commented on the sex strike, nor has his wife. Earlier this month, two anti-Gnassingbe protests were dispersed by police using tear gas and more than 100 people were arrested.
At Saturday's rally, which ended peacefully, Jean-Pierre Fabre, leader of the National Alliance for Change opposition party, called for Gnassingbe's resignation. Other opposition leaders called for civil disobedience.
But it is the sex strike that has people talking in this small country of more than 6 million people.
"It's a good thing for us women to observe this sex strike as long as our children are in jail now. I believe that by observing this, we will get them released," Abla Tamekloe said. "For me, it's like fasting, and unless you fast, you will not get what you want from God."
When asked if her husband would agree, Tamekloe said: "It is easy for me to observe it. I am used to it, but I am not sure my husband will accept, but I have to explain to him."
Another Togolese woman said she supports the sex strike, but she does not know if she can carry it out for a full week.
"I do agree that we women have to observe this sex strike but I know my husband will not let me complete it. He may agree at first, but as far as I know him, he will change overnight," Judith Agbetoglo said. "So I don't believe I can do the one-week sex strike. Otherwise, I will have serious issues with him. He likes that too much."
Though the call for a sex strike seemed to please many women, some men, including heads of opposition parties and human rights groups in the anti-Gnassingbe coalition, did not believe it would be a success.
"One week sex strike is too much," said Fabre of the National Alliance for Change, who suggested a shorter period, amid laughter from the crowd at the demonstration. "Let's go for only two days".
Others were skeptical of Isabelle Ameganvi's call.
"It is easy for her to say because she is not married herself. She does not live with a man at home," said Ekoue Blame, a Togolese journalist. "Does she think women who live with their husband will be able to observe that? By the way, who controls what couples do behind closed doors?".