Mining bosses claimed yesterday that one in four workers returned to their posts yesterday in the Marikana platinum mine where 44 men were killed last week in clashes that evoked memories of apartheid-era violence.
Although South African President Jacob Zuma declared a week of mourning in the tragedy-hit country, mine owner Lonmin had threatened about 3,000 striking workers with dismissal if they did not show up at Marikana.
But despite its claims of a return, the company was forced to extend its deadline by 24 hours.
The company urged its 25,000 non-striking workers and 10,000 subcontractors to return to the job, claiming that they would be safe.
"Those illegal strikers who did not return to work this morning will not be dismissed and have been allowed an extra day in light of current circumstances," the company said.
But notwithstanding the company's claims and dubious assurances, several thousand miners, reportedly members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, refused to come back until their wage demands were met.
Lonmin's deadline was condemned by the union's treasurer Jimmy Gama. "It is too harsh of management to talk in this way," he said, describing the ultimatum as "very unfair."
Separately, more than 250 people began appearing in court near the mine to face charges including murder, attempted murder and assault related to the deadliest incident since the end of apartheid in 1994.
About 100 women appeared outside the court to appeal for leniency for the men inside, who are often the sole breadwinners for extended families trying to make ends meet on their meagre mining salaries.
Hundreds of police have camped out at the mine, patrolling in small convoys of vehicles and conducting aerial surveillance by helicopter.
Flags flew at half-mast from all government buildings in South Africa and on its diplomatic premises across the world to remember the dead, who included miners and police.
MPs from all political parties, along with various church leaders, are expected to hold a memorial service in parliament's Old Assembly Chamber tomorrow in honour of the dead, an ANC official said.
If you appreciated this article then please consider donating to the Morning Star's Fighting Fund to ensure we can keep developing your paper.
Lord Feldman says that he didn't call grassroots Tories "mad swivel-eyed loons" while his accusers stand by their stories that he did.
As Aslef's annual assembly of delegates begins in Edinburgh tomorrow the general secretary explains the challenges his members - and workers across the country - face
France is the latest to face clamour from the EU to enforce crippling 'structural reforms.' The medicine is killing the patient