/ 14 May 2014

Amcu takes Lonmin, Amplats to court over SMS campaign

Four people have been killed since talk of workers breaking the strike began.
Four people have been killed since talk of workers breaking the strike began.

Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa said on Wednesday that he has initiated legal action against mining companies Lonmin and Anglo American Platinum for a campaign to determine whether or not workers wanted to return to work based on  SMS communications.

Mathunjwa was addressing hundreds of striking mineworkers at the Wonderkop Stadium in Marikana. “Lonmin and Anglo Platinum have an agreement with us not to negotiate directly with the employees. We are taking them to labour court and our case is to be heard on Tuesday,” he said.   

Mathunjwa slammed the chief executive of Lonmin, Ben Magara, for spearheading the campaign. Mineworkers, who have been on strike since January 23, said they received SMSs asking them to return to work.   

Their meeting on Wednesday was convened on the May 14 deadline set by Lonmin for workers to return to work, following the SMS survey it conducted among the miners.   

The union said no one reported for duty on Wednesday.

Fuelling divisions
Lonmin has come under fire for taking its offer directly to the workers. The move is seen as fuelling divisions among mineworkers.

Mathunjwa told the striking miners to soldier on because they “have come a long way since our strike started four months ago; there is no turning back”.

Four people have been killed since talk of workers breaking the strike began.

On Tuesday, the community of Bapong village, where a  mineworker and his wife were murdered on Friday night, took a resolution that no one would return to their jobs. The miner was killed at his home for allegedly going back to work. 

The community has accused Lonmin managers of fuelling tension among miners by sending them SMSs.

Mathunjwa hailed the Bapong tribal authorities for having endorsed the Amcu wage demands. The authorities wanted Lonmin to give workers R12 500 or shut the mines. The community wanted the mining company to desist from sending the SMSs.

Mineworker Sonwabo Mkhize said: “Workers are against anyone who would like to return to work today [Wednesday]. We are sticking to our R12 500 demand. If they would not give us the amount, we won’t mind going on with the strike until 2017.

“Some of us are prepared to go back to work if we could be offered at least R10 000. But the problem is with Lonmin, which doesn’t want to move from its offer of a 9% increase,” said another worker.

Zuma said so
When asked why they think the mine could afford their demand of R12 500, some mineworkers said: “Our president knows everything that is happening in the mines and he told us that they could afford it.”

Strikers wielding sticks were seen marching in the middle of the road and blocking traffic outside Lonmin’s Saffy Shaft on Wednesday morning.

A mine security guard threatened to confiscate the camera of a  Mail & Guardian photographer if he didn’t stop taking pictures. The guards had since joined their co-workers at the stadium.   

Police continue to maintain a huge presence outside the mines. More police were spotted in neighbouring villages, where there are additional Lonmin mineshafts. 

A protest took place on Tuesday night at the nearby informal settlement of Mmaditlhokwa, but it was not related to the strike.

A legal representative for the miners at the Farlam commission of inquiry, Jim Nikel, hit out at government ministers on Wednesday for spreading lies about the recent killings at the mines.

“The government and the ministers know that you are peaceful people, but they tell lies and lies about the killings that are taking place. They tell lies because they don’t want to give you a living wage; they don’t want to give you R12 500,” he said.