LONMIN billionaire Cyril Ramaphosa could favour mining bosses’ agenda of restructuring to revive profits and unleash a renewed jobs bloodbath, the Association of Mining and Construction Workers Union (AMCU) warned on Tuesday.
AMCU slammed the Deputy President’s election as African National Congress (ANC) president, saying his ‘New Deal’ economic policies will lead to austerity measures and infringe on workers’ rights.
The mining union, which rose to prominence in the wake of the 44 deaths in Marikana, called the former Lonmin executive director’s election ‘a threat to radical economic and social transformation as initiated by the workers in Marikana at Lonmin in 2012, who were massacred for demanding a living wage of R12,500’.
Ramaphosa was cleared of wrongdoing related to Marikana by the Farlam Commission of Inquiry in 2015. A series of emails showed that he’d called on the police in August 2012 to take ‘concomitant action’ against the strike.
AMCU, the majority union on the platinum belt, said that the rand strengthening by 4% on Monday, to a 9-month high of around R12.55 to the dollar, proved that Ramaphosa is backed by big business.
AMCU said: ‘The reaction of the markets demonstrates how big capital, domestic and foreign, perceive the new leader of the ANC as the gatekeeper to their interests. This is reinforced by his reformist R20 an hour National Minimum Wage when workers are pushing for a living wage.’
AMCU is opposed to the national minimum wage deal which was spearheaded by Ramaphosa at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) and is scheduled to become effective in May 2018.
Rival union, the COSATU-affiliated National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) had a different message for its founding general secretary and expressed delight at his election to the ANC’s top job. NUM General Secretary David Sipunzi said in a statement: ‘We wish comrade Cyril Ramaphosa and the collective all the very best during their term of office.
‘We expect the newly elected President to be bold and brave to lead South Africa out of the current crisis of corruption and state capture into a prosperous future.’
The NUM praised his record at the helm of the union, which he left in 1991 when he was elected as ANC secretary general.
It said: ‘It is through the gallant fight by comrade Cyril Ramaphosa and others that miners, who had many years of service, were given only a helmet and a pair of boots on their retirement and are today able to receive retirement benefits.’
Statistics SA said in the Mining Industry 2015 report that 50,000 jobs were lost in the mining industry between 2012-2015. Lonmin announced in December that 12,600 jobs will need to be cut over the next three years, in addition to the 1,100 positions shed by the company in 2017.
The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) said the working class and the poor majority of South Africans have ‘no reason to celebrate’ Ramaphosa’s election as the new leader of the ruling ANC.
SAFTU acting spokesperson Patrick Craven said in a statement late on Monday that his federation of unions ‘has no confidence in the new ANC leadership’. Ramaphosa edged out Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the former chairperson of the African Union Commission, to succeed President Jacob Zuma.
David Mabuza, the Mpumalanga premier, was elected deputy president of the party, which will now be chaired by Gwede Mantashe. Paul Mashatile was elected treasurer.
Ace Magashule, premier of the Free State, is the new secretary general. His deputy is Jessie Duarte, the only member of the Top Six to retain her position.
Reacting to the ANC leadership change, SAFTU’s Craven said: ‘None of the major problems facing the majority of South Africans will be any closer to a solution as the leadership is placed in the hands of a multi-billionaire who has been reported at one stage to be sitting on boards of over 100 private companies.
‘The immediate positive response of the money markets and business leaders is a clear indication of who will be celebrating today. Big business has one of their own at the head of the ruling party. They will see more of the same market-friendly economic policies as the National Development Plan which he has championed.’
The rand strengthened against the US dollar at the election of the 65-year-old former union leader and businessman. Craven commented: ‘This may persuade the ratings agencies to soften their recent decisions to downgrade the economy to junk status, but nothing to persuade workers and the poor that we are going to see more jobs, less poverty, and a more equal society.
‘On the contrary, Ramaphosa, the architect of the poverty nation minimum wage of R20 an hour, is more likely to respond to calls from the ratings agencies, World Bank and International Monetary Fund for their usual medicine for a country facing economic crisis – austerity, public spending cuts and moves to further limit the rights of trade unions.
‘By far the biggest reason not to have any trust in Ramaphosa was his role as a director of Lonmin when 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead in Marikana in 2012, after he had urged the police to take “concomitant action” to end the strike.’
SAFTU also took issue with the election of Mabusa, Magashula and the re-election of Duarte citing allegations of impropriety. Craven said in his statement: ‘Mabuza was exposed in 2014 in Mazilikazi wa Africa’s brilliant book “Nothing Left to Steal” as a ruthless provincial warlord, linked to a series of scandals including being accused of complicity in the alleged murders of political opponents.
‘Magashule has been embroiled in one corruption scandal after another. In 2015, he received R8-million of public money for an aesthetic upgrade of his Free State residence. The Free State government said that Magashule needed a new swimming pool because his existing one was too large and unnecessarily deep.’
Craven said Magashule emerged as one of the key figures in the GuptaLeaks emails. AmaBhungane and Scorpio detailed how the Guptas lavished Magashule’s sons with gifts and financial rewards.
The SAFTU acting spokesperson added: ‘It was under Magashule’s watch that the Guptas were given a free piece of Free State land and R184-million of taxpayers’ money to start a bogus dairy farm, and then used some of this money to pay for the infamous Gupta wedding in Sun City.
‘Duarte has been one of President Zuma’s most consistent supporters and has opposed any move to pursue charges of corruption against him. SAFTU must also condemn the fact that Duarte is now the only woman in the top six.’
Craven said even if Ramaphosa, Mantashe, and Mashatile want to prosecute those facing prima facie evidence of corruption and other crimes, the other three could cause a deadlock and block any united action to enforce such a move.
‘How can this top six be expected to wage a serious fight against corruption?’ Craven asked. He concluded: ‘The time has come for workers and the poor to accept that the leadership of this once mighty national liberation movement has degenerated into a gang of factional wolves, fighting over the quickest way to enrich themselves, their families and their cronies at the feeding trough.’