THE Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) wants to expand the platinum sector strike. ‘We have filed an application with Nedlac (National Economic Development and Labour Council) in Rosebank,’ Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said on Thursday.
‘We want our workers in the gold and coal sectors to join us,’ he told hundreds of Amcu members gathered outside Impala Platinum”s head office in Illovo, Johannesburg. The workers had marched from a park in Dunkeld West to deliver a memorandum to Implats.
Amcu-affiliated mineworkers in the platinum sector have been on strike for over two months. The Chamber of Mines was not a bargaining council, AMCU leader Joseph Mathunjwa said.
‘The chamber of mines is a mouthpiece for the oppressor,’ he said, referring to mine bosses. He was speaking outside Impala Platinum”s head office in Illovo where hundreds of striking mineworkers had gathered.
AMCU-affiliated mineworkers in the platinum sector have been on strike for over two months, demanding a minimum wage of R12,500 a month for all workers. They have rejected the companies’ offer of a nine percent wage increase.
Mathunjwa earlier told the crowd moves were underway to expand the strike. ‘We have filed an application with Nedlac (National Economic Development and Labour Council) in Rosebank,’ he said.
‘We want our workers in the gold and coal sectors to join us.’
Earlier in the day, traffic came to a standstill on Jan Smuts Avenue in Johannesburg as AMCU-affiliated mineworkers marched to Illovo. Dozens of buses had dropped off marchers.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) on Thursday stood firm on its wage demands of R12 500 a month, saying it was prepared to continue striking for the next six months at platinum producers Impala Platinum (Implats), Lonmin and Anglo American Platinum.
The union, which led a march of about 8 000 members from Rustenburg to the Sandton-based offices of Implats, also vowed to take its fight all the way to Parliament if the producers failed to cede to its demands.
Speaking to AMCU members outside Implats, union president Joseph Mathunjwa said the group planned a march to Lonmin’s offices in Rosebank next Thursday, before embarking on a march to the US Embassy, in Pretoria, the week after.
‘We will not return to work until they commit to (a monthly wage) of R12 500 in four years,’ he said, adding that AMCU had “enough members to change the complexion of the industry”.
And if the platinum producers attempted to close any of its mine shafts, the union warned it would bypass the labour court and head straight to the CCMA to secure more strike notices.
‘All we are saying to Implats is, let’s share the cake.’ Further, Mathunjwa slammed the States attempt to change the Labour Relations Act, which he believed would further suppress the rights of mineworkers, warning that AMCU would ‘bring the struggle to a revolution’ against the proposed changes.
Implats corporate executive Johan Theron said the company would examine the memorandum it received from AMCU and formally respond within a week. He commented that, while he could not provide an in-depth response immediately without examining the memorandum of demands, AMCU seemed to reiterate the demands it initially sought.
• George Bizos made a memorable opening statement at the Marikana Commission when it began in 2012.
He made three claims: that he would lead evidence to show that what happened on August 16 was unheard of around the world, that the police were influenced by a higher authority to respond with violence, and that the police were acting out of revenge when they killed 34 miners and injured a further 78.
On the face of it, Mr Bizos’s claim of revenge was based on the deaths of about 10 security and police officers that took place in the week leading up to that bloody Thursday. There had been one particularly harrowing incident in which a group of men marching separately from the main body were intercepted by the police, resulting in a shoot-out and some deaths.
In the last few days, the evidence has gone beyond that, with the testimony of a police officer with intimate knowledge of the operations. Air wing commander Salmon Vermaak testified that he was asked to lie by the South African Police Service (SAPS) about how the killings happened.
He claims he was asked to take responsibility for the miners who died at koppie three (scene two), where many appeared to have been murdered in cold blood.
‘In a consultation with the police legal team, it was mentioned to me that I am going to carry the responsibility for the people that were killed at koppie three,’ he told the commission. ‘I realised that I should note everything down in my diary regarding meetings and discussions we were having.’
He said, via an Afrikaans translator: ‘I was disappointed that all of a sudden a finger was being pointed at me, with all my years of public order policing.
‘I was being directly held responsible for the death of these people. Where do they base the allegations against me? It is not acceptable. Did they give me any other briefing about any other plan that was going to be implemented ?’
According to Vermaak, he actually had misgivings about the operations before it started, and said so to his superior commanders. He was ignored.
‘It was clear to me that there wasn’t much experience. The protests you get in the mines are more violent than the ordinary protests. They fight to their deaths.
‘These people were fearless. In the past it was believed that police or security officers’ bullets would turn into water. The fact that they had advanced on police made it clear that they believed they had sangomas’ protection.’
Vermaak specifically named Brigadier Adriaan Calitz, head of the North West provincial operational response services, as being one of those who asked him to take the blame.
It is fascinating to note that the police, even in trying to shirk responsibility for Marikana, are tacitly accepting that the attempts to plant weapons on the dead miners would fail. Thus, someone has to take responsibility for the shootings.
Vermaak also testified that North West deputy police commissioner William Mpembe ‘lost control’ when he heard that two officers were hacked to death. He apparently reacted with a lot of emotion, running around and shouting about his men. Some of the police officers were angry with their commander because their colleagues had died.
The police have so far denied that the deaths that happened before August 16 motivated them to overreact, but this could be something that the lawyers at the commission could point to as a sign that they were out for revenge.
• Internal democracy in the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) came under scrutiny on Thursday as it emerged in the South Gauteng High Court that the federation’s top brass failed to put general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi’s suspension to a vote, despite the federation’s affiliates being split over the decision.
Divisions between COSATU’s top leaders were laid bare, inside and outside court, on the first day of proceedings in Mr Vavi’s legal challenge to his suspension on August 14.
Insults were hurled at COSATU president Sdumo Dlamini, deputy general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali and second deputy president Zingiswa Losi by a handful of Vavi supporters who sang and danced outside the court as they made their way out for lunch.
Mr Vavi and three COSATU affiliates — the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), football union Safpu and the Food and Allied Workers Union — applied to the high court to have his suspension set aside. Mr Vavi was suspended after admitting to an affair with a junior employee.
In court on Thursday he was flanked by his wife, Noluthando, and NUMSA general secretary Irvin Jim. Mr Dlamini sat behind him.
Mr Vavi is facing nine charges. These include bringing COSATU into disrepute, and charges of financial irregularities. COSATU had launched an investigation into his conduct after his suspension. The disciplinary hearing against him is set to proceed in May, irrespective of whether his suspension is set aside.
The court heard that eight unions were in favour of suspending Mr Vavi, with eight against the move or undecided, yet the federation failed to put the matter to a vote. COSATU affiliates had to resort to airing their views through a discussion.