NUM: A wage agreement could have saved lives at Marikana

Molefi Ntsoele, one of the miners killed in the Marikana strike, is laid to rest in Lesotho. (Paul Botes, M&G)

Molefi Ntsoele, one of the miners killed in the Marikana strike, is laid to rest in Lesotho. (Paul Botes, M&G)

Lives could have been saved if a wage dispute at Lonmin's Marikana mine had been settled outside of national bargaining processes, says NUM.

This view, by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) health and safety national secretary Erick Gcilitshana, who was testifying at the commission's hearings in Rustenburg, was heard at the Farlam commission on Tuesday.

Evidence leader Geoff Budlender asked him if it was true that lives could have been saved by a pay settlement. "I think so. I can't be confident in saying that," he said.

Earlier, he recalled his shock on hearing that a police shooting left 34 workers dead. "I got [the news of the shooting] from the radio. To me it was a shock and surprise," Gcilitshana said. He was the first witness to be called by NUM.

He was the chief negotiator during the Lonmin mineworkers' strike at Marikana in August. He is also a Lonmin employee. Budlender asked him what his response was to hearing the news. "I don't recall very clearly. As I remember, we did phone the company to verify."

He was asked if he took any action following the confirmation, to which he answered: "Not". Gcilitshana will be cross-examined by Lonmin lawyer Schalk Burger. 

The commission is probing the deaths of 44 people during an unprotected strike at the mine last year. Thirty-four striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 were wounded when police opened fire while trying to disperse a group gathered on a hill near the mine on August 16.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were hacked to death.  – Sapa

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