Lonmin on edge again after arrests
Although the National Union of Mineworkers has welcomed the police action, mine workers want their colleagues freed, writes Kwanele Sosibo.
Arrests have continued at Lonmin's Western Platinum operations in North West following the murder of Daluvuyo Bongo, a National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) office bearer. He was shot and killed on September 5 in the Wonderkop hostel in Marikana.
Since Friday last week three people have been apprehended. The most recent is strike leader Xolani Nzuza, who was among the most prominent speakers for the miners during the six-week strike that culminated in a 22% wage increase.
The others, Sizakele Kwaziwa and Zenzile Nxenye, have already appeared in the Rustenburg Magistrate's Court in connection with the murder and have been remanded in custody. But workers claim that another employee, Sibongile Fotywa, has been missing since Sunday October 14.
Members of the workers' committee said on Wednesday that they would march to the mine's management offices and submit a memorandum demanding the release of their colleagues by Thursday afternoon and would not turn up for work on Friday if their co-workers were not released. But the march was called off after workers met the mine's management earlier on Thursday.
Earlier, the NUM criticised the police for what it deemed inefficient policing, particularly for the lack of arrests following the murder of some of its office bearers and family members of union members.
NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said the arrests had brought some relief to the organisation, but the union would be happy only after a successful prosecution. He said lawlessness was the order of the day in Rustenburg.
"If people are a danger to society, they shouldn't be given bail."
In a statement released on Thursday, Lonmin said there was "sporadic labour disruption at its mining operation". "This is apparently in protest against the arrest of three mine workers in connection with criminal investigations by the South African Police Service.
"As management, we are working as hard as we can with all our stakeholders, including the NUM, Amcu [Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union] and all the workers' representatives, to continue rebuilding trust between employees and ourselves and ensure operational stability."
This week, President Jacob Zuma and government officials met representatives of business, labour and community organisations about how the slowing economic growth was affecting South Africa, the state of industrial relations and events at Marikana. The parties all agreed on the need to speed up the fight against poverty and to combat inequality and unemployment.
The government's new growth path and the importance of sectoral charters were singled out as being particularly important in addressing developmental needs.
Given the new pressures weighing on the economy, they agreed that these had to be implemented quickly to ensure the realisation of the nation's economic and social goals.
In a statement released after Wednesday's meeting, they said the improvement of public and investor confidence and the joint responsibility of the public and private sectors, including mining houses and municipalities, in improving the living conditions of working communities were priorities.
In the statement, Zuma said key secondary mining towns such as Rustenburg, Lephalale, Emalahleni, the West Rand, Welkom, Klerksdorp and Carletonville would be targeted for development.
He also called for the salaries of chief executives and executive directors to be frozen for 12 months in the interests of building a more equitable economy.