Hundreds of striking South African workers rallied on Saturday to press Anglo American Platinum to revoke its decision to fire 12,000 wildcat strikers amid a wave of labour strife sweeping Africa's largest economy.
Nearly 50 people have been killed since August in labour conflict in the crucial mining sector, and President Jacob Zuma's ruling ANC is struggling to damp down some of the worst social unrest since the end of apartheid in 1994.
Several hundred workers, watched by police in armoured vehicles and a helicopter, held a two-hour rally in a soccer stadium near the platinum belt hub city of Rustenburg, 120 km (70 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, and were urged to fight for their jobs.
The hastily arranged rally, held under a blazing sun and punctuated by songs of labour struggle, was more subdued than other protests over the past weeks where strikers brandished machetes and clubs, threatening to set fire to mine shafts.
Workers said the termination notice, delivered to many by SMS, caught them by surprise on Friday, despite repeated threats from Amplats that it planned to discipline strikers.
"It just isn't fair. The company pays me little and I have worked here for years," one of the sacked miners, who asked not to be named, said.
Others told local media they would not give up the fight for higher wages, even if that meant more violence. Strike leaders said workers would stay off the job, making sure Amplats' mines cannot extract ore.
"There will be no operations that will operate. An ordinary worker is prepared to die for his own rights," one of the strike leaders Evans Ramokga, announced.
Ramokga said there had been secret talks to broker a settlement, but Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said she would not "qualify that with a comment", adding "there has been no progress".