Hundreds of workers at a South African coal mine owned by the Guptas, a family closely associated with ex-president Jacob Zuma, have gone on strike over uncertainty about the company’s future.
Some 2,500 workers downed tools at the mine in eastern Mpumalanga province, demanding clarity on whether the firm has been sold to a new owner and if their salaries due this week will be paid, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said Thursday.
“Our members say if they don’t get paid their salaries the strike which started yesterday, will continue,” NUM spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu told AFP, adding “the workers also want to know if the mine has been sold or not”.
The company’s chief operating officer George van der Merwe addressed the workers on Thursday telling them the firm was experiencing financial problems and offered no guarantees that salaries, due on Friday, would be paid.
“For the salaries of tomorrow, trust me the team is busy having a discussion now with the banks,… but I today cannot commit to you anything that I do not have the 100 percent answer for.”
The Guptas and Zuma’s son Duduzane acquired the mine from Glencore for 2.15 billion rand ($184 million) in 2015. Last year it announced that it was selling the mine to Swiss-based company Charles King SA.
The mine’s holding company Oakbay Investments did not respond to emailed questions.
The government said in an emailed response that it had not received any application from the company “to transfer its mining right”.
The Guptas are a business family from India who formed allegedly improper ties to Zuma. They are accused of receiving hugely favourable government deals.
Police last week issued an arrest warrant for one of the brothers, Ajay Gupta. The second brother Atul, also reportedly out of the country, on Monday fought back against a corruption probe by contesting an assets freeze.