/ 26 August 2014

Lonmin aimed to ‘divide and rule’, says Shabangu

Leading the way: Mineral Affairs Minister Susan Shabangu
Leading the way: Mineral Affairs Minister Susan Shabangu

Platinum miner Lonmin used divide-and-rule tactics on its workers, former mineral resources minister Susan Shabangu told the Farlam commission of inquiry on Tuesday.

Evidence leader Kameshni Pillay asked her about a statement she made in May 2013, in which she claimed the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was “under siege by forces determined to remove it from the face of the earth”. 

“I was referring to Lonmin, the employer,” Shabangu told the commission’s public hearings in Pretoria. She was being questioned on her role in the August 2012 strike-related unrest at Lonmin’s mine in Marikana, near Rustenburg, in the North West. 

She said the company’s behaviour had contributed to the unrest. “At times, we look at rivalry of unions and we forget the key element, which is the employer,” she said. Adding that, “at the end of the day, the employer wins”.

Shabangu said the same forces were aimed at removing the ANC from power. Pillay said it seemed Shabangu had excluded the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), another union at Lonmin, from meetings on August 18 2012, as she had only recognised the NUM. 

Amcu ‘did not exist’
Pillay suggested that this was because the NUM had “synergy” with the ANC. Shabangu disagreed. She earlier said she did not know anything about Amcu’s involvement in the unrest at Lonmin. 

“Our understanding was that Amcu did not exist, but there were workers’ committees,” she said. Commission chairperson, retired judge Ian Farlam, asked her about her knowledge of Amcu’s role at Lonmin during the unrest. 

“What about news reports at other mines where Amcu and NUM were involved … at Impala and Amplats?” Farlam asked. 

“We knew about workers’ committees. We knew nothing about Amcu,” she said. “For us, we’d never met with Amcu before. Amcu was never there during stakeholders’ meetings.” 

During the August 2012 unrest, however, Amcu played a significant role. Union leader, Joseph Mathunjwa went to the koppie near the Marikana mine where hundreds of mineworkers had gathered. He has testified that on his knees he begged them to leave the koppie, telling them police would kill them. 

Shabangu ‘never went to Marikana’
On August 16 police opened fire on the protesters, killing 34 people, almost all striking mineworkers. Over 70 were wounded and over 200 were arrested. Police were apparently trying to disperse and disarm them. 

In the preceding week 10 people, including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards, were killed. The commission, sitting in Centurion, is investigating the 44 deaths. 

During Tuesday’s proceedings, Shabangu revealed that even after the deaths she did not address the striking mineworkers. 

“I never went to Marikana to meet with the strikers,” she said. In her address to Cabinet on August 21 2012, Shabangu said she had spent hours consulting the affected parties, but the strikers were not part of this. “We met with individuals who were on strike who were members of [the] NUM,” she said. – Sapa