AS MINEWORKERS in Marikana prepared yesterday to commemorate the deaths of 34 of their colleagues at the hands of police a year ago, hopes for a public display of unity by the leaderships of rival unions were dashed.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the African National Congress (ANC) both boycotted the event.
The NUM claimed the event had been ‘hijacked’, while the South African Communist Party (SACP) again labelled the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) ‘a vigilante grouping’.
The ANC in the North West said the ‘commemoration is organised by an illegitimate team called “Marikana support group” — a group which the ANC does not recognise. The ANC will only participate in a commemoration organised by government, as agreed with families, Lonmin Platinum Mine and labour unions.’
The hardening of attitudes comes after a glimmer of hope earlier this week, when Amcu and the South African Council of Churches, which together with the Marikana Support Group were asked by the community to host yesterday’s event, invited the NUM to share the platform.
The commemoration got under way at the foot of the koppie where mineworkers were shot a year ago, with a cultural programme followed by speeches, prayers, a blow-by-blow account of the massacre and the identification of key sites.
A public display of unity by the unions had the potential to send a message to grassroots members, who have borne the brunt of violent inter-union rivalry.
AMCU president Mathunjwa said it was unfortunate the NUM had decided not to attend. ‘I even wrote a formal invitation to the president of the NUM saying that this was an opportune moment to show unity to the workers. I then had a very encouraging conversation with him on Wednesday night. He said he would come back to me, but he has not.
‘It is very unfortunate that Amcu is blamed for not putting effort into unity, but when we do make an effort we are slapped in the face.’
The NUM’s hardened stance was reinforced by a statement from the SACP on Thursday which, while expressing sympathy for the bereaved, described Amcu as a ‘vigilante grouping’.
• The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) has tried to put aside its differences with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and called for peace as killings continue one year after the Marikana massacre of mineworkers in South Africa.
AMCU invited the NUM to its commemoration ceremony yesterday, which honoured the 34 miners shot dead and 78 injured by police at platinum producer Lonmin’s Marikana mine on August 16, 2012.
They also commemorated the lives of the latest victims of clashes between miners and the state, which include a local NUM leader who was shot dead on Monday.
Before the ceremony, AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa said he had contacted NUM leader Senzeni Zokwana, inviting him to ‘be part of the ceremony and join me in Marikana on Friday, to preach peace and demonstrate that workers’ unity is a strength’.
Many miners joined the AMCU members to accuse the NUM of overly close ties with the government and mining companies.
At least 12 people linked to Lonmin’s Marikana mine have been killed over the past year, eight of them prominent union members.
Before the ceremony, Dali Mpofu, the lawyer representing the survivors of last August’s shooting, said the NUM had been invited to yesterday’s ceremony to deliver ‘a message of peace that clearly says the killings must stop immediately’.
Mpofu called on South Africans to observe a minute of silence, the moment police unleashed a hail of bullets on a crowd of striking miners on August 16 last year.
The memorial honoured those who died in the massacre, as well as 12 others – including two policemen and two security guards killed in the week leading up to the shooting.
South African President Jacob Zuma called for reflection to restore peace in South Africa’s mining industry on Wednesday, before the anniversary of police shooting dead strikers in the Marikana tragedy.
Two days before the commemoration, mine owners Lonmin recognised the AMCU, which led the wage strike, as its official majority union.
Zuma said: ‘The incident shocked the whole country and caused untold pain and numbness amongst all South Africans.
‘It was a tragic and sad loss of life.
‘We must all resolve to do everything possible to prevent a repeat of similar incidents.’
Demands by workers for wages increases were ignored by Lonmin bosses and so they were forced to go on strike.
Workers flocked in droves to join the AMCU, abandoning the once-dominant NUM after workers accused it of protecting the mine management’s interests rather than that of labourers.
AMCU now represents 70% of Lonmin’s 27,000 employees, and the NUM now only has 20% of the membership.
Following the massacre, strikes spread quickly across the platinum industry and some gold mines, bringing the industry to a standstill for months.
Mine stoppages in 2012 cost South Africa R15.3-billion.
In the year since the massacre, at least eight prominent members from both the AMCU and the NUM have been murdered.
The Farlam commission, the inquiry Zuma set up to probe the Marikana killings, is yet to conclude its work, and lawyers representing wounded workers have pulled out over lack of funding.
Meanwhile, Lonmin chief executive Ben Magara said the company’s agreement with AMCU ‘signals a new era’, vowing that ‘we’ll put all we can to ensure peace and stability’.
AMCU president Mathunjwa urged a partnership to end acrimony between mine managers and labourers.
He said: ‘We acknowledge that without cooperation we are all losers and that as leaders, we must find a way to ensure we can move forward together in peace and stability.’
Meanwhile, Rustenberg mayor Mpho Khunou spoke to mark the one-year anniversary of the massacre, saying: ‘It was absolutely devastating.
‘We have got to treat the tragedy as a catalyst to cajole everybody to move with speed to bring about a better life for the people of Marikana.’
A member of the African National Congress (ANC), Khunou was elected mayor after the May 2011 municipal elections, about 15 months before the Marikana killings.
His predecessor, Matthew Wolmarans, was found guilty last year of involvement in the murder of an ANC councillor in 2009, in a bid to hide corruption in the municipality.
A lack of services, including water and sanitation, has been cited as one of the factors that added fuel to the Marikana tragedy.
A year later, much still looks the same.
The ANC government has borne the brunt of the anger of the South African working class as the government has failed to raise their living standards
Khunou claimed that things would change, at the earliest during the course of next year, and after.
He insisted Rustenburg had already approved some of the project proposals contained in the ‘presidential intervention plan’, put on the table to deal with housing in mining towns, including Marikana.
Khunou continued: ‘In our part we have approved these precinct plans.
‘These form a part of the outlook for the area over the next 15 years.
‘We are looking at business developments, housing and other forms of land use.’
Rustenburg is among one of South Africa’s fastest-growing cities and mining contributes close to two-thirds of the Rustenburg economy.
The killings at the Lonmin mine happened in the Madibeng section of Marikana.
Madibeng is the poorest neighbourhood in the whole of the area.
Miners at the Marikana site took strength from strikes at surrounding mining operations, including at Implats seven months earlier.
This encouraged them to fight for pay increases by taking strike action themselves.
Khunou said change in Marikana could be speeded up when mining companies also did their part.
He concluded: ‘Under mining licence regulations, mining companies have a responsibility to contribute to the socio-economic development of mining communities.’