South Africa Marikana: Striking miners march

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Media captionMarikana miners rally against London-listed Lonmin

About 3,000 stick-wielding workers at South Africa's violence-hit Marikana mine have marched to gain support for their wage strike.

It is the biggest demonstration at Marikana since police shot dead 34 miners last month, sparking outrage.

Some protesters broke a barricade and entered the Lonmin-owned mine, but withdrew after appeals from church leaders mediating in the conflict.

About 50 miners controversially charged with the murders were freed on Monday.

About another 220 still in police custody are expected to be released on Thursday.

Expelled ruling African National Congress (ANC) party youth leader Julius Malema is due to lead a bigger march in Marikana to coincide with their release, the BBC's Nomsa Maseko in South Africa's main city, Johannesburg, says.

Mr Malema, who was expelled earlier this year following a series of disagreements with President Jacob Zuma, has called on workers to make mines "ungovernable" if their demands are not met.

Senior ANC officials have shares in many mines in South Africa.

Gold deal

During Wednesday's demonstration, police helicopters circled overhead as protesters, holding long sticks, marched through Marikana town.

The protest took place as church leaders continued to broker talks between Lonmin, the world's third biggest platinum producer, and worker representatives in an effort to negotiate a peace accord.

Lonmin said worker attendance at Marikana was less than 5% on Wednesday.

"We expect that employees are waiting for the outcome of the peace accord meeting," it said in a statement.

A man at the head of the demonstration waved a placard which said, "We want 12,500 rand ($1,480; £935) - nothing else."

Meanwhile, a week-long strike by 12,000 workers at mining firm Gold Fields' KDC mine near Johannesburg is due to end on Wednesday night following talks with top leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers (Num), the company said.

Workers protested against compulsory funeral cover deductions from their salaries and called for the resignation of Num leaders on the mine.

Their demands would be "attended to", Num spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said.

Analysts say miners are increasingly accusing Num of failing to look after their interests and of becoming too close to big business and the government.

At Marikana, rock-drill operators embarked on a strike about a month ago, demanding higher wages and greater recognition for a new union, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), which is a rival to the long-established Num.

Former Num General-Secretary Cyril Ramaphosa is a Lonmin director and a senior ANC member.

The miners, who say they are currently earning between 4,000 and 5,000 rand a month, want their salary increased to 12,500 rand.

Police shot dead 34 of them on 16 August - the most deadly action by security forces since South Africa became a democracy in 1994.

State prosecutors then charged 270 miners, rather than policemen, with the murders.

After widespread condemnation of the decision, they announced on Sunday the provisional withdrawal of the charges.

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