MORE strife is looming at South Africa’s Marikana platinum mines, as members of Amcu (the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union) warned Lonmin’s new owners that they are ready to strike ‘for up to a year’.
The union and its members have used the event marking seven years since police shot and killed 34 striking Lonmin mineworkers – on August 16 2012 – as a warning to Lonmin.
Survivor of the massacre and Lonmin mineworker Mzoxolo Magidiwana told thousands of his colleagues that the new owners of the mines, Sibanye Gold, want to destroy their livelihoods. ‘We must show them who we are here,’ he said.
Amcu members are unhappy with the salary increase offered by Sibanye Gold, which bought Lonmin in June, saying it would only amount to pay hikes of R300 in the first two years and R400 in the third.
‘If Sibanye is offering us R300, then the company bosses must take it and give it to their children. We are not their garden boys,’ said Magidiwana, who was temporarily paralysed by the 2012 shooting.
He said that what mineworkers were demanding was R17,000 a month – which Amcu says should be the minimum salary for mineworkers.
‘There is no turning back, we are steadfast. We are not scared of anything. If they like they will shoot us again,’ Magidiwana said.
He appealed to Amcu shop stewards not to play with members’ livelihoods because the union was trusted by mineworkers.
‘We don’t want any more blood to be spilt in this place. We’ve had enough,’ said Magidiwana, adding that he was prepared to take bullets again.
He said the period after the massacre had been extremely difficult for him, and included a period when he could not sleep at his home because he was afraid he would be murdered.
Magidiwana and 352 other mineworkers injured and arrested after the massacre took Legal Aid South Africa to court, demanding that the agency pay their lawyers. ‘The ANC was involved in the struggle, but they are in bed with the capitalists,’ he said.
Andile Yawa, whose son Cebisile Yawa was among the 34 mineworkers killed, said the families still have a lot of unanswered questions about the deaths of their loved ones.
‘Lonmin, where are those people we gave you to come and work for you? We never received a full account from you on what happened to them after you no longer needed them.
‘We also have a question to the government: where are our children and sons? We want to know what happened to them,’ she said.
Amcu leader Joseph Mathunjwa told union members not to fear their white bosses. ‘We are not poor, but we are made and managed to be poor. We are not poor. How can we be poor sitting on top of platinum?’ he said.
He blamed mine owners and managers, saying that if the mines were properly managed, no one would be poor.
Meanwhile, the City of Johannesburg and labour unions representing municipal workers have entered into an agreement that seeks to do away with wildcat strikes. The agreement will also involve labour in the city’s budget planning process.
The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) in the Johannesburg region signed the legally binding memorandum of understanding (MoU), said to be the first of its kind, with the city on Monday.
‘We have the right to strike, we have not signed anything away,’ claimed Imatu regional chairperson Keith Swanepoel. He explained that what the unions have signed clarifies the process that needs to be followed in the event that a labour dispute arises.
The MoU aims to maintain ‘stable’ relations between the city and organised labour, so as to not disrupt services to Johannesburg residents.’ The document states that ‘work stoppages, particularly those that disrupt service delivery, must be a method of last resort.
‘All parties must engage with one another in good faith, from a problem-solving perspective and with a view to minimise the scope for conflict,’ the document also states.
Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba told the media that since his new administration was elected to office, the city has been fortunate enough not to have had any devastating protests: but that a framework is now in place to regulate the process long before any protest takes place.
Spontaneous strike action that hasn’t followed the relevant process will be halted.
The MoU also provides protection for municipal property and workers who are not protesting. And there is union involvement in the city’s budget for the first time
Another key aspect of the agreement is the involvement of unions when the city’s annual budget is being drafted or adjusted. In the same vein, labour will also be consulted when the city develops its strategic plan and integrated development plan.
‘I think in the past, when I took over the administration, the unions were never party to the planning,’ said Mashaba. ‘I cannot see any organisation being private or public where you don’t involve people who do the work.’
Samwu regional chair Vuyani Singonzo said this would also enhance transparency between the unions and in turn ‘manage perceptions’.
‘While labour will assist in informing the budget in terms of operations, wage and salary issues will still be handled at the National Bargaining Council.
‘We are a stakeholder and we need to know what is happening there (in the budget) … it will enhance our trust whenever we negotiate at the bargaining council,’ said Singonzo.
Further, Singonzo said the MoU will not be read as a document that compromises the needs of the workers, as it commits to reskilling members and reinforces some of the governance structures that exist in employment relations.
He said unions were not always ‘strike happy’, explaining that protest action was a pain for labour because it meant ‘no work, no pay’.
‘With this MoU we are going to benefit because it is going to make sure that whoever was supposed to take a decision in resolving any matter that arises, they should have resolved it. If it leads to a strike it must be investigated,’ Singonzo said.
‘In the event that any of the parties breach this MoU, the enforcement procedures require binding arbitration with powers to award costs or necessitate disciplinary action against any employee of the city,’ said Mashaba.
The agreement cannot be amended or withdrawn without the consent of all three parties, meaning that irrespective of which party is governing the city, the MoU will remain in force. It will also remain in place regardless of which political party is in power.
The agreement comes as Mashaba’s time as mayor may be up – he faced a vote of no confidence yesterday.
The DA mayor survived attempts to remove him before, in 2017, with the much-needed backing of the ‘red berets’ Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
However, it remains to be seen whether he will escape the hammer now as the red berets have vowed to not vote for either the DA or the ANC.
At the same time, lawyers are aggrieved by lack of security at their offices, as well as the heavy workload.
Court officials have told of a chaotic Monday at the courts during the first day of the strike by Legal Aid SA lawyers, with cases unheard and postponed.
A court orderly at the Randburg Magistrate’s Court, which had a total of 48 old cases and more than 20 first appearances on the roll, said none of the legal aid lawyers from the Wynberg offices reported for duty.
‘The state had no other choice but to request that the matters be postponed. If this is not resolved speedily, it could spell a complete disaster,’ said the court official, who did not want to be named.
The public legal representation agency, which assists about 725,000 people each year according to its chief executive officer Vidhu Vedalankar, confirmed there were disruptions, with Gauteng the most affected.
Spokesperson Mfanafuthi Shabangu said there were minor disruptions in the flow of cases, particularly in Benoni, Palm Ridge and Randburg Magistrate’s Court.
‘The disruptions were minimal because we knew about the strike. Managers of various offices managed to get those who are not on strike to process some cases but many had to be postponed,’ he said.
Legal Aid SA said the primary disputes were around the reduction of a limited number of employee benefits due to severe budget shortfalls over the last few years.
‘The reduction in these benefits, such as the rightsizing of our Group Life Scheme, was done as a last resort to avoid retrenchment of staff,’ national spokesperson Shabangu said.
He said the workers had been engaged regarding the budget constraints, and that this problem will be around for a long time as they are facing budgetary cuts of between 5% and 7% in the next three years.
But Michael Motaung, one of the worker representatives, said nothing had been communicated to them.
‘They only cut where employees would be affected. There are areas they would not touch, such as procurement. We have also suggested that the agency does away with rented offices and move staff to its own buildings,’ he said.