Malema fires up Aurora workers

Julius Malema's attempts to politically capitalise on the Marikana mine shooting continued on Thursday at Grootvlei gold mine on the East Rand. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Julius Malema's attempts to politically capitalise on the Marikana mine shooting continued on Thursday at Grootvlei gold mine on the East Rand. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Malema spoke to workers, who haven't been paid in nearly two years, since the mine was taken over by Aurora empowerment systems – a company partly owned by President Jacob Zuma's nephew Khulubuse Zuma and Nelson Mandela's grandson Zondwa Mandela.

"Our leaders have lost their way and have been co-opted by mine owners and fed profits. They don't care about you," Malema said to an approving applause.

His chants of "Phansi, Zuma, Phansi [down with Zuma]" were met with enthusiastic replies from the workers, who relayed to him their anger with government and the ruling ANC.

"He is our future! He's our leader! He will be our president! The ANC are cowards," one miner said of Malema.

Liquidators of Pamodzi appointed Aurora Empowerment Systems to manage the mines in October 2009, when the mines were fully operational.

Since then, the directors of Aurora – Zuma, Mandela, Jacob Zuma's legal advisor Michael Hulley and Thulani Ngubane – have all come under intense scrutiny over the mine's demise, and in November last year were grilled by Parliament over claims they had fraudulently stripped the mine of its assets.

The mine is in a complete state of disrepair, with only Shaft One, the last functioning division at the mine, currently being used to generate revenue for liquidators to pay creditors.

The visit to Aurora follows on Malema last week transforming a memorial service, held for the 34 slain miners who died at the hands police at Lonmin platinum mine, into a political rally decrying government's role in the incident.

'Gotten worse'
Malema told the Grootvlei miners they need to stand up for their rights and demand what they deserve.

"We thought it would be nice to be a black person after 1994, but it's gotten worse than apartheid. Our own people are killing us," Malema said.

Malema  also said miners countrywide should make all mines "ungovernable" until the "whites listen".

"They must pay a decent wage – R12 500 a month as a basic wage for all.
This is your time. This country is what it is today because of miners like you. You must claim your rightful place in South Africa," he said.

Malema said the fact the Aurora crisis had lasted four years showed there was no leadership in the country.

"Four years shows that there is not leadership. When they [politicians] arrive to represent you, they give them money and they forget you."

Illegal strike
Accordingly, Malema called on workers to continue their industrial action and also prevent any work from being carried out on Shaft One.

"The liquidators' needs to ensure workers must be paid first. We must stand united, comrades. We must fight together because if we don't the whites will throw the contract workers away like toilet paper," he said.

Among those who attended Malema's meeting were workers fired from the nearby Gold One International, the prospective buyer of Aurora's mines. Gold One International confirmed it had fired 1 044 workers for embarking on an illegal strike.

"The workers were in an illegal strike and we asked them to come back and they refused ... so we dismissed 1 044 workers," spokesperson Grant Stuart said.

The workers wanted a minimum wage of R6 500.

Stuart said the company won an urgent court interdict which declared the strike illegal. Workers were fired and when the matter was appealed, the court upheld the previous decision, Stuart said.

In April, Gold One and Goliath Gold put up a R70-million bid to buy Aurora's assets, with a view to build at least four new mines in the area. – Additional reporting by Sapa.

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend. Read more from Nickolaus Bauer

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