Bishop defends EFF after Mantashe’s ‘unfortunate’ comments

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) got involved in the North West platinum belt strike to help those who were arrested, Anglican Bishop Jo Seoka told SAfm on Monday.

“Advocate [Dali] Mpofu is not sitting there as the EFF, he is sitting there … as a professional person representing the workers who were arrested and have been asked by the workers to participate in this process,” Seoka told the broadcaster.

He was reacting to comments by ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe that the strike was becoming a political one because of the EFF’s alleged involvement in negotiations and its alleged collusion with foreigners.

“Of concern was whether this was a collective bargaining strike or a political strike,” Mantashe told reporters on Sunday at Luthuli House following the party’s national executive committee meeting this week. “This question arose having noted … disturbing developments.”

Mantashe said the ANC was concerned by the articulation of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union’s (Amcu) position by white foreigners.

“The articulation of Amcu’s position by white foreign nationals is signalling interest of the foreign forces in the destabilisation of our economy,” he said at the time. “Also of concern is the direct participation of the EFF in the negotiations, and thus collaboration with the foreign forces …These two factors led the [ANC] lekgotla into cautioning the ministry of mineral resources in handling the facilitation with care.”

“These two factors led the lekgotla into cautioning the ministry of mineral resources in handling the facilitation with care,” he added. “There were questions about the role of the state in workplace disputes where there are clear rules guiding it.”

‘Very unfortunate’
Seoka said Mantashe’s comments were “very unfortunate”.

” … Hopefully it would be corrected some time during the day,” he told the broadcaster.

“I think the issue is really very critical because we are almost reaching a solution … The minister [of mineral resources] has done his best…The parties are talking to each other … There is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Meanwhile, the EFF said on Sunday it was unapologetic about its support of the mineworkers’ demand for a R12 500 minimum wage.

“This support is a political support and that is why the EFF has pronounced on it in its elections manifesto that R12 500 must be a minimum wage in the entire mining sector,” party spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said in a statement on Sunday.

‘A desperate attempt’
Ndlozi said the ANC was shifting the blame of their failure to resolve the ongoing platinum strike to the EFF.

“The ANC’s insinuation that this is not a political strike, but a collective bargaining strike is a desperate attempt to delegitimise and downplay workers’ legitimate demands and their efforts to secure their livelihood,” he said.

“The demand for a minimum wage is political and that is evidenced by the slaughter of 34 mineworkers in defence of capitalist interests by the ANC government two years ago.”

Ndlozi said workers must remain resolute knowing that EFF was behind them.

Mantashe explained on Sunday that the government intervened because people were being killed and it did not want a repeat of the 2012 Marikana massacre.

‘Another disaster’
On August 16 2012, 34 people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead by police who were trying to disarm and disperse them. Another 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed during the preceding week.

“The state cannot be idle when workers are being killed … We should not allow that development as it would lead to another disaster,” he said.

Mantashe said the strike needed to come to an end to address the 0.6% negative growth for the first quarter of 2014. 

Amcu members at Lonmin, Impala Platinum and Anglo American Platinum downed tools on January 23 demanding a basic monthly salary of R12 500. They have so far rejected the companies’ offer that would bring their cash remuneration to R12 500 by July 2017.

Last week, Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi set up a task team to help resolve the wage dispute. On Saturday, he said he could pull out of the negotiation process if no agreement was reached by Monday. – Sapa

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