'No mandate' to speak for Marikana workers at CCMA negotiations

It remains unclear whether the ongoing Marikana strike will overcome its impasse when the CCMA convenes on Monday. (AFP)

It remains unclear whether the ongoing Marikana strike will overcome its impasse when the CCMA convenes on Monday. (AFP)

Parties involved in the bloody strike action at Lonmin's Marikana mine are heading to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration without a clear mandate from striking workers.

A peace accord was signed by several parties involved in the standoff last Thursday, paving the way for CCMA negotiations, but the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and Marikana workers' representatives did not sign the accord and it remains unclear what role, if any, they will play in wage talks.

Almost a month after police fired on striking workers in Marikana on August 16, killing 34 of them and wounding 78, several hundred workers still refuse to return to their posts and claim unions heading into negotiations are not representing them.

“The protest continues. We will not go back to work until the mine bosses give us more money,” the workers' representative, Tholakele Dlanga, told the Mail & Guardian.

In spite of reports that nonstriking workers were being prevented from reporting for work, Dlanga wouldn’t confirm whether ongoing protests would include preventing them from fulfilling their duties.

“People must listen, fellow workers have died and it [the strike] is not ending,” he said.

Ten people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed, allegedly by striking workers in the week preceding the shooting.

'Political power'
Amcu is largely seen as the union representative of the majority of workers involved in the protracted strike.

“Our position was never taken into account and this has got nothing to do with workers going back to work or not – this is about political power,” Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa told the M&G.

Amcu was formed as an offshoot of NUM after Mathunjwa was expelled from South Africa’s biggest union in 1999. He has repeatedly said the mine shooting was affected through NUM’s political influence, in opposition to the growth of Amcu.

Mathunjwa added the accord “flew in the face of fairness".

“Our position was never taken into account and the strike was never sanctioned by Amcu. To hold us responsible for this is wrong,” he said.

Mathunjwa said the union had not received another mandate from workers, so it could not approach Lonmin with another wage offer.

Violent atmosphere
Ahead of Monday’s talks, NUM general secretary Frans Baleni told the M&G any negotiations will be stifled by the violent atmosphere still prevailing at the mine.

“The level of intimidation is getting out of control. If needs be Lonmin must deal with the workers threatening violence against those wanting to work,” he said.

Baleni said NUM’s “hands were tied” if workers did not enter negotiations in good faith.

“People must embrace this peace accord and engage, enough people have died and we cannot let this continue,” he added.

Baleni also dismissed assertions that negotiations were political in nature.

“We are really worried that this situation will spread and turn violent again. There are already reports of similar labour disputes at mines around the area and we need to normalise the situation as soon as possible,”

CCMA negotiations begin at midday on Monday.

Providing aid
Non-profit organisation Gift of the Givers began providing food and other aid to the affected mining community.

“They don't have money, the uncertainty of when the wage dispute will be resolved and the aggravation of debt incurred through loan sharks adds to the anxiety. These people need our assistance and kind words,” said the head of Gift of the Givers, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman.

The industrial action, now heading into its fifth week, has also seen big production losses for Lonmin, the world's third-biggest platinum miner.

Estimates put the lost output of 2 500 ounces of platinum daily at a total cost of over R30-million at the end of last week.

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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