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Numsa considers solidarity strike with Amcu

Matuma Letsaolo

As tensions run high in Marikana, Numsa says it might strike with Amcu - whose members are demanding a R12 500 salary from Lonmin, Amplats and Impala.

Numsa's general secretary Irvin Jim blamed strike action in Marikana on capitalist imperialist ownership. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) said on Thursday that it is considering a solidarity strike with thousands of Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) members who have been on an industrial action for the past four months over wage increase. 

“Numsa’s position is that we shall take this matter to the next Cosatu CEC [central executive committee] and the federation should discuss and finalise what form of solidarity we must give to the strikers. 

“But also Numsa is having serious problems with the role that is played by the state, ANC [and] mining bosses,” said Numsa national treasurer Mphumzi Maqungo.

Amcu is demanding a basic salary of R12 500, which mines – Lonmin, Impala Platinum and Anglo American Platinum – say they can only phase in in a few years from now. 

Tensions ran high in Marikana this week after the police were deployed to the area to protect workers who wanted to return to work – with Amcu boss Joseph Mathunjwa on Wednesday describing the move as a “recipe for disaster”. Four people, including three miners, have reportedly been killed in the past week in what is suspected to be strike related violence in the North West mining town. 

In 2012, 34 striking mine workers in Marikana were gunned down by police. 

Following Numsa’s central committee meeting its general secretary, Irvin Jim, said on Thursday that the root cause of the strike in Marikana was the capitalist imperialist ownership of “our mineral resources and the persisting structural problem of this sector of the economy, which was still based on the supper exploitation of migrant labour”. 

He blamed the ANC government for failing to break down the apartheid capitalist colonial economy, which he said is based on the super exploitation of black labour. Jim said he did not understand why people are questioning the R12 500 living wage demand by workers while they say nothing about the chief executive of Anglo Platinum and 11 other senior managers who racketed bloated bonus payments. 

‘We condemn the [mine] bosses
Jim said Numsa was unhappy about President Jacob Zuma’s decision to change the terms of reference for the Farlam commission, which he said protects ministers implicated in the Marikana massacre. “The CC [central committe] strongly condemns the disturbing trends by the state in its attempt to amend the terms of reference of the Farlam commission. Numsa is consulting its lawyers in this regard,” said Jim. 

He said Numsa categorically held the mining bosses and government responsible for the impact on the economy and the deficit on gross domestic product, for failing to concede to the demands of the mining workers. 

“We condemn the [mine] bosses for approaching individuals miners with their offers and we further condemn [police commisioner] Riah Piyega for asking bosses to arrange transport for scab labour.”

Earlier Jim said Numsa resolved to form a political party for workers.

“The working class needs its own political party ... the working class is leaderless,” he said in Johannesburg.

For now the party would be referred to as the United Front (UF), and its name would be finalised next year.

Jim was briefing reporters about a four-day meeting of the union’s central committee, which ended on Thursday.

Hurry to get to Parliament
He said workers were not in a hurry to get to Parliament, and were not opportunistic in planning to form their own political party.

“There is no turning back from where we stand. We will take time and have political schools, take trips to Latin America to learn more and champion the needs of the working class.”

Numsa deputy secretary general Karl Cloete said the party would contest the 2016 local elections if the party is up and running by then.

“The working class should take power,” he said. Jim said anyone who wanted to defend the workers was welcome in the UF.

Declining ANC support
The ANC’s decreased majority in the general elections showed that workers sought an alternative to the ruling party, said Jim.

“The 10% loss of votes in Gauteng and a mere 48% of votes in Nelson Mandela Bay spells a disaster for all progressive forces ... The working class are seeking an alternative to the failed policies of the ANC,” he added.

Jim said it was clear support for the ruling party had decreased.

“The central committee noted that while the ANC celebrates a 62% victory and lays claim that their support has not shifted below 60% [it] is misleading and completely fallacious.”

He said 64% of South Africans did not vote for the ruling party.

“Out of the total potential and registered voters, analysis of election statistics confirms the ANC has been elected into government by a mere 36% of all those who were eligible to vote.” – Additional reporting by Sapa, and Staff Reporter

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