/ 16 August 2012

NUM: Lonmin union members on hit list

The National Union of Mineworkers says there is a hit list targeting its members at the troubled Lonmin mine in North West.
The National Union of Mineworkers says there is a hit list targeting its members at the troubled Lonmin mine in North West.

The man found dead on Tuesday in an open veld near the mountain where striking workers had gathered was a National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) shopsteward, the union's general secretary Frans Baleni said on Thursday.

"We know that the list consists of shopstewards and branch members at Lonmin," he said

Baleni said three of them were NUM members, and one was a member of the United Association of South Africa (UASA).

Another NUM shopsteward managed to escape on Tuesday. "He has now been put in a place of safety," he said.

'Never involved'
Baleni said his union was "never involved" in the violence, and that the law should take its course should any NUM members be found to have been involved.

He said the union had forwarded to the police the names of the people it believed were responsible for the hit list.

On Friday, thousands of rockdrill operators started an illegal strike and a protest march.

Meanwhile, a group of women armed with knobkerries moved towards a hill on Wednesday, where some striking miners had gathered.

The women, who claimed to be wives of the workers, settled about 500m from the hill in the area.

"We have joined our husbands in their bid to earn a living wage. We cannot take this thing anymore," Maria Nku said.

She said her husband earned R4 000 a month, and that this was not enough to cover their living expenses.

They are demanding R12 500 a month.

"We are joining them in their fight; we are the ones who suffer at home because of the peanuts that our husbands earn."

'Harming' negotiations
The troubled mine has refrained from issuing warning letters to striking workers to avoid "harming" ongoing negotiations.

"Union leaders showed commitment to speak to workers … we did not want to send conflicting messages," said spokesperson Barnard Mokwena.

The company on Tuesday indicated they would issue warning letters to workers to return to work.

Talks between Lonmin and the NUM and Amcu continued throughout the day, and Mokwena said the talks would continue on Thursday.

Negotiating a truce
Earlier on Wednesday police made their way to the hill to negotiate a truce with workers who had gathered there since early morning.

Spokesperson Captain Dennis Adriao said the plan was to disarm the workers and normalise the situation.

The negotiations stalled later in the afternoon as workers started wielding traditional weapons and chanting war songs.

NUM president Senzeni Sokwana was ejected by the workers as he tried to persuade them to return to work.

The workers had earlier demanded that Zokwana get out of the police van he was in and speak to them directly.

His call to them to return to work was met with shouting and chants from the crowd, who refused to listen to him.

Warm welcome
Zokwana, who was speaking from inside the police vehicle, could no longer get a word across and had to be whisked away by the police.

Amcu's Joseph Mathunjwa however received a warm welcome from the workers.

They clapped and shouted "Amandla!" as Mathunjwa delivered his speech.

Mathunjwa said he agreed with the workers that the police should leave the area. "We could have spoken to you a long time ago had it not been for the police presence here," he said.

He told them management had promised not to fire them as long as they returned to work. "The power is yours, but you need to go back to work so that negotiations with management can commence."

Illegal strike
Ten people – two police officers, two security guards, three protesters and three other men – have been killed since then.

The body of the tenth victim, clad in khaki, was found about 100m from the hilltop where workers had gathered on Tuesday afternoon.

Adriao said the dead police officers could not be named yet as their families had not identified them yet.

One officer was based in the North West while the other was from Gauteng, he said.

The protests are believed to be linked to rivalry between the NUM and the Amcu over recognition agreements at the mine.

The workers told journalists that they did not care about the unions and only wanted a wage increase. – Sapa