Business

Malema denied entry to Wonderkop stadium

Phillip De Wet

Julius Malema was denied entry on Monday to an event where North West miners were to be briefed on developments about their wage demands.

Police barred Julius Malema (L) from addressing around 2 000 striking workers at the strife-torn Lonmin Marikana on Monday.(AFP)

Police stopped the former ANC Youth League president at the gates of Wonderkop stadium, where the workers had gathered to be briefed.

After a lengthy discussion, Malema drove off, escorted by about 10 police vans.

It was not immediately clear whether Malema would be able to visit the family of people who were injured by rubber bullets on Saturday, or if he would leave the area.

A police helicopter circled above, while police on foot patrol ran to points of entry to stop Malema if he made any turns.

Journalists were also asked to leave the stadium. Worker leader Zolisa Bodlani told the meeting that journalists should stay outside as they might report on discussions before the wage talks were to resume at 3.30pm.

"Could we ask all the journalists to leave, as we are discussing," he said.

Prior to this, Bench Marks Foundation chairman Bishop Jo Seoka, who is also president of South African Council of Churches pleaded with the workers for a mandate to lower their demand of a monthly salary of R12 500. "You must give us a mandate to go a little bit down, but not hurting you," he said.

The Bench Marks Foundation is an independent faith-based organisation monitoring corporate performance, and is involved in the mediation process at the mine. At the meeting, the workers were told that Lonmin could afford to pay R12 500, but then it needed to close more shafts.

Out of work
Meanwhile, roughly 1 200 people will be out of work in the Rustenburg area by mid-October, after Lonmin said it would move ahead with a planned shutdown at one of the shafts it is developing near Marikana. It had already given notice of the termination of their contracts to Murray and Roberts, it said.

But though negotiations with striking workers continue to drag on, more than a month after the deaths of 44 people near the mine, the firings may have come even if there had been no labour unrest.

"On 26 July 2012 the company announced that in light of the weak pricing environment, some capital expenditure at the K4, Hossy and Saffy shafts was being deferred so as to reduce annual capital expenditure in the 2013 and 2014 financial years to $250-million per annum," the company said in its statement. "Lonmin further announces today that as part of that on-going capital expenditure review it will be moving its K4 shaft to care and maintenance."

Illegal strike
Other shafts in the complex remain technically operational, but are not producing ore.

Lonmin on the weekend said that although it had obtained a final Labour Court declaring the strike at Marikana illegal, it would not necessarily use the ability that grants it to fire striking workers.

"It should be emphasised that this remains an unprotected strike and that many of the strikers have flaunted the law by, amongst other things, indulging in acts of violence and intimidation," the company said in a statement on Sunday. "Lonmin believes a balance must be found between workers' rights to protest on the one hand and respect for due process, the rule of law and rights of fellow citizens on the other.  

"However, Lonmin continues to seek a solution to the current situation through negotiation, which it is carrying out in good faith, and has demonstrated this through the significant and meaningful response to the demands that have now been tabled, even though the strike is illegal.

"At this point Lonmin remains committed to the wage negotiations as the most sustainable solution for a return to work."

By Monday morning those negotiations had not shown any progress. People involved in the talks said worker representatives had complained that they had been unable to meet with strikers on the weekend, because police were determined to disperse any gathering, and that they therefore had no current mandate. But lunchtime Monday a group of strikers had gathered at a stadium, with police keeping watch, to discuss the latest Lonmin offer.

It also remained unclear whether workers would move from their demand of a minimum salary of R12 500 for underground operators. Last week several of those involved in the strike said they were keen to return to work, and were concerned about the future of the mine (and their jobs) should the strike action continue much longer. Others said it would defile the memory of their fallen comrades to settle for anything less than the initial demand.

Lonmin says its current offer would see rock drill operators earn an extra R1 800 per month more, with a 21% increase in guaranteed pay, while entry-level workers would see a 16% increase. – additional reporting by Sapa


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