Oct. 16 (GIN) – Saying he was not afraid of blood, one-time leader of the youth division of the African National Congress, Julius Malema, urged the recapture of South African mines from whites, while leaders of the country’s largest labor federation offered non-violent support for the thousands of miners staging wildcat strikes across the country.

About 80,000 mineworkers, representing 16 percent of South Africa’s mining workforce, are currently striking across South Africa. Gold Fields, one of the top producers of gold in South Africa, on Tuesday gave striking mineworkers until Thursday to return to work or be dismissed. At least 23,540 of the company’s 35,700 employees have been striking since September.

Anglo American Platinum — the world’s top producer of platinum — dismissed 12,000 workers whose strike brought its operations in Rustenburg to a standstill.

Cosatu, the labor group, warned it would take “action” if the mineworkers were not reinstated by Oct. 27, adding that the mining companies should “withdraw those dismissals and engage further to find a way of resolving the strikes.”

Meanwhile, on a recent visit to Zimbabwe, ex-youth leader Malema repeated his demand that South African whites relinquish their control over the country’s natural resources.

“When they came from Europe they did not carry any land into South Africa,” he told young members of Pres. Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party. “What we are asking is for them to surrender our minerals because they did not come with any mineral.

“We want that land and those minerals for free because they never paid for those minerals.”

Malema said whites committed murder to get land. “They killed people to get that land and those minerals. We are not going to give them money when we take the land back because it will be like we are thanking them with money for killing our people.

“We are not scared of blood,” he declared. “… seeing blood is not what we are scared of as long as that blood delivers what belongs to us we are prepared to go to that extent.”

A one-time supporter of President Jacob Zuma, Malema has in recent months become Zuma’s fiercest critic, a worrying factor as the party faces falling approval ratings ahead of its leadership conference in December.