Marikana: Amcu boss grilled for playing ‘high stakes game’

Mathunjwa has been painted as a man primarily interested in getting himself a seat at the bargaining table in the crucial moments of August 16 when he met with Lonmin officials.

Extracts of a conversation Mathunjwa had with Lonmin's Jomo Kwadi on the morning of August 16 came under scrutiny as a Lonmin lawyer Schalk Burger cross-examined Mathunjwa about his agenda on that day.

In an exchange Burger says was indicative of a "high-stakes game" being played by Mathunjwa, Mathunjwa appears to be telling Kwadi that he will "go to the mountain" and tell workers to disperse if Lonmin does not bring up "technicalities" that "Amcu is not a bargaining agent" when it is time to discuss the strikers demands.  

Mathunjwa then tells Kwadi that he must get Barnard [Mokwena] to commit that no technicalities will be brought up at a later stage, failing which, he should "discharge his police to go and kill those people as according to] Zokwana and Barnard[, this] was their mandate yesterday."

Mathunjwa's last remark refers to a statement made by Mokwena on August 15 that "the police should go and do their jobs" [if the workers do not disarm].

In the extract of the conversation, presumably recorded by Kwadi on his cellphone, Kwadi then asks Mathunjwa: "You're basically saying you will go to the mountain on condition that you get some kind of a guarantee that the company will negotiate with Amcu on the demands of the people that are on the mountain?"

To this, Mathunjwa replies: " … I mean according to those people whom they want to negotiate on their behalf, yes."

Kwadi then clarifies to Mathunjwa that Lonmin has an agreement with Amcu on issues related to the [non-striking] Karee mine, a point that Mathunjwa accepted with a "yes".

The transcript does not give a complete picture of Mthunjwa's intention, as it reveals in earlier sections that he had a mistrust for how Lonmin carried itself in labour matters, where he goes as far as saying that Lonmin had a "forked tongue", as it had taken Amcu two years to get a recognition agreement.

Mathunjwa argues that on that morning, the main issue he wanted to discuss was how the induction of miners would take place, as the strike was anticipated to be over. The "commitment" he was seeking from Lonmin, he says, was that Amcu would not be sidelined when the demands were being discussed after the strike as it was becoming obvious that workers wanted Amcu to negotiate on their demands, despite the National Union of Mineworks having bargaining rights.

The transcript, however, formed the centrepiece of Burger's argument that Mathunjwa was interested in catapulting his union to the bargaining ranks at Western and Eastern Platinum, where the strike was concentrated. He spent much of the morning grilling Mathunjwa on excerpts of statements he made at the "koppie", which Burger argued amounted to campaigning for membership.

One such remark made by Mathunjwa was that the NUM was a union that oppressed workers, which he defended by saying that was how workers viewed the union after years of not being satisfactorily represented.

Mathunjwa was also forced to apologise for spreading "the false rumour" that people were killed by the NUM on August 11 when people guarding NUM offices opened fire on marching workers. Mathunjwa said he had been misled by his general secretary Jeff Mphahlele.

Mathunjwa's cross-examination continues on Monday.

Kwanele Sosibo
Kwanele Sosibo

Kwanele Sosibo studied journalism at Durban's ML Sultan Technikon before working at Independent Newspapers from 2000 to 2003. In 2005, he joined the Mail & Guardian's internship programme and later worked as a reporter at the paper between 2006 and 2008, before working as a researcher. He was the inaugural Eugene Saldanha Fellow in 2011.

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