Facing an ultimatum to return to the mines Monday, a South African drill operator told CNN he and his co-workers should honor their slain colleagues and hold out for a pay increase.

Cingisile Makhaba, who along with 3,000 other drillers and assistant drillers has been on strike since August 10, told CNN he must get a big raise before he goes back to the mines.

"Otherwise they will have died in vain," he told CNN's Nkepile Mabuse.

Last week, police fired on striking miners, killing 34 workers, wounding 78, and arresting 259 on various charges, including malicious damage to property, armed robbery, illegal gathering, and possession of weapons. Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega has said police "were forced to utilize maximum force to defend themselves."

The rock drill operators and assistant rock drill operators, who earn $300 to $500 a month, want their salaries raised up to $1,500 a month.

It came as no surprise that their multinational employer, Lonmin, the world's third-largest producer of platinum, said no to the whopping increase. The company said the strike is illegal.

The company said Sunday it was telling non-striking workers that "police consider it safe to report for duty again" Monday morning and was ordering strikers back to work or face possible dismissals.

Cyril Ramaphosa, an African National Congress executive committee member who owns shares in the mine, is donating $250,000 to pay for the funerals of those killed last week.

But Makhaba said the money is "of no use now. It won't bring back the dead."

"Where is this money coming from?" he asked. "They should have used it to increase our wages."

Makhaba lives with his two children in a compound of one-room shacks he shares with eight other families.

"We work hard but we live like animals," he said.

Over the weekend, thousands of people gathered outside the platinum mine in anger over the shooting.

The situation was calm but tense as police stood on guard near the protest Saturday and helicopters conducted surveillance.

The tragedy began unfolding a week ago when miners went on strike demanding pay increases at the mine in Marikana, near Rustenburg, about two hours northwest of Johannesburg.

"When there is a rock fall, it is generally the drillers who are the victims," wrote journalist Greg Marinovich in the Daily Maverick newspaper. "It is the most dangerous job in the business."

The violence was believed sparked by a rivalry between two unions that wield a lot of power and influence in South Africa. The unions, accused of trying to outdo each other in negotiating wages, denied instigating the clashes.

Read it at CNN.