Marikana miners: No R12 500, no peace pact

Marikana workers are demanding R12 500 a month. (AFP)

Marikana workers are demanding R12 500 a month. (AFP)

Eyewitness News reported on Thursday morning that Lonmin management had signed a peace accord with unions – with the notable exclusion of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and the Marikana workers' representatives.

"Amcu was there during the signing. They did not want to sign," Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini told EWN.

Worker representative Zolisa Bodlwana said the miners he represented, who had formed their own committee to represent them at the negotiations, would never be party to the peace accord.

"We felt as if we were in a wrong meeting because they kept on insisting on signing the accord. We left because an accord does not help us in any way."

Bodlwana said a feedback meeting would be held with miners on Thursday in Wonderkop, where expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema was expected to join them during the course of the day.

Peace off
On Wednesday night, striking workers remained adamant that they would not sign the accord.

"We don't want to hear anything about a peace accord. We want R12 500 and the closing down of that shaft," worker representative Xolani Nzuza told the miners after talks with management.

He was addressing them in a field opposite the mine after the protesters returned from a march to the company's mine in Karee. Nzuza said until Lonmin closed the K3 shaft, where most of the mine's operations took place, they would not leave.

The protesters were told to go home for a few hours and gather in the field later on Wednesday night. Earlier, the marchers threatened to kill Lonmin management unless it stopped operations at the platinum mine.

The strikers, carrying knobkerries, sticks, and iron rods, pushed their way through police barricades as they marched more than five kilometres through Marikana to the Karee mine. While they marched, they sang: "We died because of [President Jacob] Zuma. [UDM leader Bantu] Holomisa please come and rescue us." They also carried placards bearing pictures of their dead colleagues—mostly of Mgcineni Noki.

Noki (30), nicknamed "Mambush" after former Mamelodi Sundowns player Daniel "Mambush" Mudau, is the last of the miners killed at Marikana to be buried. The funeral will be held at his home village Mqanduli, outside Mthatha, at the weekend.

Noki and 33 other miners were killed on August 16 when police fired on a group of protesters near the mine. Another 10 people were killed in the preceding week, including two policemen and two security guards.

"We called him Mambush because of his soccer skills. He died for our cause," said Noki's friend Xolani Nzuza. "He never backed down or lost hope. He believed that we will get what we are fighting [for] as long as we do not lose hope."

On their way to the Karee mine on Wednesday, the miners passed the Karee West informal settlement. Its residents cheered in support. Men whistled, women ululated, and they shouted: "Viva R12 500. Viva."

The police took up position about 500 metres from the mine's entrance gate, and kept a close watch. Two helicopters circled overhead.

Central Methodist Church Bishop Paul Verryn urged police to allow the workers' representatives to speak to management. Five representatives of the workers told mine manager Jan Thirion that management had Wednesday and Thursday to close the mine's K3 shaft, or they would end up dead and the mine would be burnt down.

Thirion, who arrived at the gate escorted by two bodyguards, told the representatives to go back to the negotiating table and sign the peace accord. "Violence doesn't solve anything. It is not in anyone's interest."

Afterwards, Verryn said mine management's approach was obscene. They should have allowed the representatives into the mine for talks, instead of speaking to them through a gate. "Until the [workers' living and wage] situation changes, there won't be peace."

Workers had been on strike for the past three weeks, demanding a monthly salary of R12 500.

On Tuesday, about 200 mineworkers met at the Karee mine's Shaft 30, and tried to get their colleagues to stop working. Another march was then planned for Wednesday morning. Police in armoured vehicles kept an eye on the Nkaneng squatter camp at Wonderkop, near the Marikana mine. Talks between worker representatives, unions, the labour department, and management resumed in Rustenburg on Wednesday. – Sapa



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