/ 15 August 2012

Amcu treading on NUM territory at Lonmin mine

Miners gather on a koppie near the Lonmin mines.
Miners gather on a koppie near the Lonmin mines.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa addressed workers to huge applause on Wednesday evening, following the ejection of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) president, Senzeni Zokwana, from the union meeting.

Mathunjwa promised workers that he would attempt to broker favourable conditions for them to return to work.

Amcu is again eating into NUM territory, which is a repeat of a pattern that played out at the Rustenburg Implats Mine earlier this year.

An ultimatum promised to the striking Lonmin workers has yet to materialise with Lonmin management backtracking on the threat uttered at Tuesday's lunchtime press conference.

Speaking to the media about developments in the strike, Lonmin's executive vice president of human capital and external affairs, Barnard Mokwena, told journalists that they would issue an ultimatum on Wednesday to those workers who had embarked on an unprotected strike as they had obtained a court interdict for the stoppage of the strike.

Earlier on Wednesday, however, communications officer Gillian Findlay said "the ultimatum remains an option that was not yet put into effect" but could be effected if the strike persisted. She could not be drawn into pronouncing on the effect the strike was having on the mine's production.

About 3 000 workers have been meeting on the koppie on the edge of Nkanini, an informal settlement adjacent to Karee shaft one in Lonmin’s Western Platinum mine since Sunday.

Planned negotiations
On Wednesday workers met again, with early news reports announcing planned  negotiations between the police and the striking workers. However, the planned disarmament talks descended into a stalemate with workers alleging that the police Casspir contained NUM leaders as the police spoke in fanakalo.

"Which policeman knows fanakalo?" scoffed one worker's representatives, who would not give his name. Relations between striking workers and the NUM have severely broken down, with most workers saying they were fed up with years of broken promises.

While the violent strike has been blamed on clashes between NUM and Amcu, the striking workers said they were a united force currently with no allegiances to a particular union. Amcu, however, has been recruiting aggressively at the plant but was currently below the threshold necessary to enter the two bargaining units at the mine. 

By late Wednesday afternoon, negotiations had seemingly been abandoned, with workers taking to spirited song and reiterating their demands of R12 500 minimum salary and request to speak to Lonmin CEO Ian Farmer.

Worker representatives said they were not willing to go to the mine premises as they feared arrest and gunfire, after two miners were killed on Saturday, allegedly by NUM snipers. NUM has distanced itself from the violence, pointing the finger at Amcu instead. Ten people have been reported dead since the strike began on Friday.

Police spokesperson Dennis Adriao said while workers had a right to strike, their weapons were making the situation difficult as people had already been killed. Workers countered that they were armed in self defence.