/ 23 January 2014

Amcu accuses media of lying about strike prospects

About 1 500 members of Amcu arrived at the Wonderkop Stadium to hear union president Joseph Mathunjwa update them on the latest negotiations.
About 1 500 members of Amcu arrived at the Wonderkop Stadium to hear union president Joseph Mathunjwa update them on the latest negotiations.

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa has accused the media of peddling lies about the prospects of the union's strike in the platinum sector, which began on Thursday.

Addressing approximately 1 500 workers gathered at the Wonderkop Stadium at Marikana, Mathunjwa said the media had also repeated "lies" told by Lonmin, which alleged that the strike would be damaging to the workers' cause, and said the media had also accused him of "being a dictator".

Instead, Mathunjwa said he was merely telling workers what the status of negotiations between Amcu and the mines were.

Workers at Lonmin, Implats and Amplats downed tools on Thursday, in the hopes of getting salary increases of up to R12 500. Many said they were hopeful that the intervention of Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe would advance their cause. Motlanthe vowed to intervene in the wage negotiations this week.

Workers, listening intently to Mathunjwa's Thursday address, were hesitant about talking to the media after being warned there would be consequences if further "lies" were told about the strike's prospect.

However, some workers who spoke to the Mail  & Guardian said they viewed this latest strike as an ongoing struggle for better wages. They also said the media had perpetuated a myth, that they would be dismissed as a result of this strike, which was not possible because the strike is protected.

Quality of life
One man, a surface-level worker, said he started working at Lonmin 12 years ago, at a starting salary of R1 600 per month. Now, he earns R9 700 – a salary he says is not enough to improve his quality of life.

A salary of R12 500, however, would be enough to alleviate some of the pressure he faces, now that his daughter has started university. He said many others still earn R4 000 a month for "dangerous" work below the ground.

He lives in the Nkaneng settlement, a collection of tin shacks on the edge of the Marikana koppie, where many workers stay, who were present at the 2012 Marikana massacre.

Meanwhile, Amcu faced none of the hostilities expected on Thursday, especially in light of the fact that a strike in the gold sector was put on hold on Wednesday pending the outcome of a Labour Court decision on whether that strike is protected.

Another miner from Limpopo said he remained confident of the strike's prospects, because Amcu had communicated with workers throughout the process.

He said the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), had previously failed to consult with workers during negotiations, accepting "whatever the bosses said".

"The ANC and the NUM are in an alliance, and the ANC is in government. When you go to the NUM's offices you see how they drive nice cars. They don't understand that the struggle isn't over, and that's the problem," said the worker.

Amcu has remained adamant that the strike would be peaceful. Workers at Wonderkop carried symbolic knobkierries, and umbrellas for shelter from the sun.

They dispersed after Mathunjwa's address and promised to return to Wonderkop on Friday for a progress report on the wage negotiations.

Many wore T-shirts with the words, "Remember the slain of Marikana", and banners instructing Lonmin to "leave the country" in the event that the mine could not afford their demands.