Amcu president 'vindicated' by Lonmin legal counsel

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa. (Gallo)

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa. (Gallo)

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union president's version that it was Lonmin that first set the precedent of negotiating with workers outside of bargaining structures surfaced again at the Farlam commission on Monday, this time from the unlikely source of Lonmin’s legal counsel Schalk Burger.

In addressing Mathunjwa's criticism of Lonmin's conduct in the run-up to the strike in which over 40 people were killed, particularly the indiscretion of engaging workers outside of two bargaining structures, Burger said the company would present evidence as to why vice-president of Lonmin's Karee mining operation Michael Gomes da Costa decided to engage workers. 

According to Burger, Da Costa said he was willing to consider the rock drill operators' (RDOs) request for a higher wage because it applied only to Karee; because the delegation had specifically requested him not to involve trade unions; and because the RDOs' delegation appeared to have the support of the majority of the RDOs at Karee.

According to Burger, da Costa states that he was aware that Lonmin was paying a lower wage to RDOs in July compared to Implats and Amplats and, since properly trained and competent RDOs are a scarce commodity within the platinum industry, he deemed it prudent to give careful consideration to the RDOs' request.

Burger’s revelation appears to vindicate Mathunjwa, who has long argued that that Lonmin needs to blame itself "110%" for engaging workers outside of recognised structures and causing the subsequent "loss of lives".

Public sentiment seems to be swaying in Mathunjwa's favour on Monday as cross-examination by the National Union of Mineworkers’s Karel Tip failed to corner him or reveal any hitherto unknown indiscretions. Tip, as Lonmin’s Burger, seemed obsessed with proving that Mathunjwa fuelled union tension by making statements that put Amcu in a positive light and cast the NUM in a negative light.

In a long, impassioned monologue, Mathunjwa revealed that this was an extraordinary situation requiring extraordinary measures and that the only way to secure the workers' trust and ensure that they were willing to vacate the koppie was by appealing to their emotions.     

"After my addresses on August 16, some of the workers left the koppie," Mathunjwa said.

"If it wasn’t for that address, more than the 34 workers would have been mowed down. You should appreciate that this country has over 48-million people, academics, you name it. This news was all over the world, but now today, that massacre should be put to one of those 48-million people. '[The sentiment is] Joseph Mathunjwa you have failed. [You] who has no sophisticated material that the governement has, has no money that the company has. [You] poor Joseph Mathunjwa should be blamed.' But that was the best I could do as a mortal man."


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. Read more from Kwanele Sosibo

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