'True leader' Malema addresses Implats strikers

The ANC and striking mineworkers at Impala Platinum near Rustenburg must negotiate to end their strike, embattled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema said on Tuesday.

“The employer must be prepared to negotiate. Negotiations means give and take,” he said.

Malema was holding a consultative meeting with miners on working conditions in the mine and the nationalisation of mines in Freedom Park.

Over 17 000 workers were dismissed recently as a result of the strike that began on January 20, in a downing of tools that was sparked by rock drill operators who were protesting over the selective granting of pay hikes that saw them overlooked.

A system of bonuses and housing allowances effectively amounted to an 18% pay increase for a select category of workers whom the company claimed to be losing to high turnover. The strikers who were re-employed, were hired on condition of forfeiting their accrued benefits and other terms, which worsened their circumstances.

Chief among the striking workers’ demands was a wage of R9 000 after deductions, compared to the current wage range of between R3 000 and R4 500.

Malema on Tuesday told the crowd that the mine could afford the workers’ R9 000 wage demand or more.

Working conditions
“Workers cannot be wrong,” he said to the applause of the crowd.

“Once workers decide on action something must be wrong.”

He said the youth league had called for the nationalisation of mines based on the conditions mineworkers were exposed to.

“You must benefit from the mine. If you are not benefiting, you must fight until you benefit.”

Malema told the protesters to return to work but said they should do so on condition that they would enjoy the benefits they had before the strike.

“You must not allow the employer to divide you,” he warned.

North West Premier Thandi Modise accompanied Malema on stage and addressed the crowd.

“The ANC will never abandon you but you must be controlled—no violence,” she said. “You must always fight for your rights but you lose the support of government and the ANC when you are violent.”

Modise promised the workers that the impasse would be resolved by next week and that the ANC had arranged a meeting between the National Union of Mineworkers and Implats management.

Malema arrived under tight security, in a white Range Rover, while youth league spokesperson Floyd Shivambu arrived in a BMW, escorted by the police.

Malema arrived more than an hour late for the meeting, while the striking mineworkers sang liberation songs.

“A go lowe, ke leng re bua? [let’s fight, how long have we been talking?]” the crowd sang when Malema had not arrived by 11am. He had been expected to address the workers by 10am.

Public order police held shields and batons as they watched the singing crowd near the stage. Four armoured police vehicles were standing by with their engines running.

Many workers said they regarded Malema as a “true leader”.

“He is the one who can help us in our struggle,” said Abbey Sibanyoni (48). “Malema is a true leader, that is why we want him to hear our problems,” she said.

“With Malema we will win,” said worker Kenneth Kubu (38), against the background of revolutionary songs.

The crowd waved placards calling for Malema to intervene in their strike.

“Our president Juju help us, we want money, not percent,” read one placard.

Another read: “Next president of SA, we want money and nationalisation of mines.”—Sapa, M&G Reporter

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