/ 29 November 2012

Lonmin counsel wins little after slating Amcu leader’s remarks

Joseph Mathunjwa.
Joseph Mathunjwa.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union's leader was hauled over the coals this week by Lonmin legal counsel Schalk Burger as all the unguarded remarks he made in the run up to the August 16 shootinngs came under scrutiny.

The remarks in question were uttered at a press conference the union called on August 14 to address the escalating situation at the koppie on August 16, a few hours before the shooting.

Burger, seeking to highlight a toxic relationship between Amcu and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), zeroed in on Mathunjwa’s statement that “some sinister forces were behind this situation” in reference to the strike that began in August. 

“Before the report about RDO’s demands, we learnt that NUM started an intensive campaign where they said [they were] ‘reclaiming Lonmin back’.” The statement read. “This campaign is on-going and it is even involving top officials from the ruling party.”  

When asked by Burger if he was suggesting that the NUM was “the sinister force”, Mathunjwa said he didn’t know who the sinister force was, which was why he asked management to investigate this issue. Burger then said he would argue that Mathunjwa was giving an unreliable response. 

Burger then turned his attention to Mathunjwa’s remark that the platinum industry was using “dirty tricks” against his union and tried to suggest that Mathunjwa was inferring that Lonmin was a trickster, a suggestion Mathunjwa rebuffed by saying he was referring to the industry as a whole.

Mathunjwa was also asked about remarks he made at the koppie, where he inferred that Lonmin’s middle management – executive vice-president of human capital and external affairs Barnard Mokwena, executive manager of external affairs Abey Kgotle, and employee relations senior manager Jomo Kwadi – were "rent-a-blacks". 

Mathunjwa said he did not name anyone specifically as a "rent-a-black".

While Burger came out guns blazing, he did not force any concessions out of Mathunjwa as was anticipated, and Burger was just hitting his stride when he was asked to hold his line of questioning until Friday morning.

Earlier on Thursday morning, Mathunjwa was forced to concede that no workers were killed when people opened fire from an NUM office on August 11. The argument that a worker was killed in that incident has long been used by workers as a reason for why they took up arms. 

After that concession at the hands of the evidence leaders, Mathunjwa was cross-examined by the South African Police Service's legal counsel, Ishmael Semenya, who, for the most part, seemed distracted and underprepared as he missed the preceding two days of Mathunjwa’s testimony.