Strike wave sweeping South Africa – NUMSA & Solidarity leaders slander striking workers

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THE revolutionary strikes that have been shaking the South African mine owners were a highly organised affair to promote the cause of nationalisation of the country’s mines and overthrow the current leadership structures, the general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Frans Baleni, said on Friday condemning the striking miners and Julius Malema in particular.

Baleni claimed in an interview that former ANC Youth League (ANCYL) leaders, now parading under the banners of Friends of the Youth League and/or Economic Freedom Fighters, had been mobilising resources, weapons and legal support as early as 2011 in an effort to destabilise the country’s mines.

Julius Malema, former leader of the ANCYL, has been the leading voice calling for the nationalisation of mines, and was condemned for this by the NUM leadership.

‘The plan originally was to get NUM leaders preferred by the ANCYL into power at our 2012 congress earlier this year.

‘However, when that did not happen, ANCYL leaders looked for a different alliance, which I believe they found in Amcu (Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union),’ said Baleni.

Baleni also claimed that money was involved in the organisation of these strikes and that ringleaders were being paid off to ensure their cooperation.

Baleni alleged that a source in the gold-mining industry said there were strong rumours that money was flowing from the so-called ‘Anyone But Zuma’ campaign to organisers set on destabilising the sector.

The ‘source’ allegedly said, slandering the workers, the strikes were too well planned across different sectors and in different parts of the country not to have a mastermind behind them. ‘Where there’s smoke, there usually is a fire,’ he said.

Solidarity general secretary Gideon du Plessis said the strike that broke out at Kumba Iron Ore’s Sishen mine, where miners had received ‘large payouts’ in December, as well as dividends and above-inflation increases just two months ago, proved that the strikes were not really about wages.

Again slandering the workers he stated: ‘It only takes a couple of people to intimidate the masses and create anarchy, as we saw at the Sishen mine where 300 workers have now caused the mine to shut down completely,’ said Du Plessis.

He said that the excessive and unaffordable wage increases demanded by illegally striking mineworkers showed that an end to the strikes was not a priority.

He said this was especially true in light of the fact that most mineworkers had signed agreements through the NUM during the past three to 12 months.

‘One has to ask yourself what changed all of a sudden; what sparked the unhappiness? There is definitely something strange going on,’ said Du Plessis.

The NUM had been South Africa’s majority mining union for almost three decades.

It has strong links to the ruling ANC through its union federation Cosatu.

NUM has stated that it does not the nationalisation of the mines.

The illegal strikes have cost the NUM tens of thousands of members. T

This year, 13 NUM shop stewards have been assassinated, Baleni said.

NUM’s membership at Impala Platinum, where an illegal strike halted production for six weeks at the beginning of the year, has dropped to 13%.

Other displays of unhappiness with the union have included burning a mock coffin filled with NUM shirts at Samancor’s operations in Rustenburg and workers marching to NUM’s regional offices demanding that their memberships be terminated.

Franz Stehring, divisional manager at trade union Uasa, said the NUM lost favour with the Friends of the Youth League when it came out against a policy of nationalisation.

He agreed that Malema was behind efforts to destabilise the mines, but could not confirm whether or not there was a definite connection between Malema and Amcu head Joseph Mathenjwa.

Many workers have distanced themselves from unions, preferring to represent themselves independently, but Baleni said this is a guise used by Amcu and Malema to avoid prosecution for organising the illegal strikes.

Baleni was disappointed that government officials had been ‘lame ducks’ in not dealing with the unlawful strikes.

Stehring hoped strikes would calm down after candidates for the ANC’s Mangaung elective conference had been nominated.

‘Then Malema will see whether he will have a voice or not at Mangaung, and whether he could continue to push the nationalisation agenda or not.’

The strike in the mining sector is set to continue, the strike co-ordinating committee decided yesterday.

‘No amounts of threats or death can stop us, we are determined to continue with the strike,’ said spokesman Mametlwe Sebei.

He said a meeting of the strike committees in all mines in the country have agreed to intensify the strike.

‘We have agreed to escalate the strike, we are going to shut down the bit that are still operating,’ he said in Marikana.

‘All workers in the country must be paid a minimum of R12,500, we are calling for a minimum wage for all workers.’

He said they also agreed to embark on a national strike in November to push for a minimum wage. The national strike was planned for November 3.

Mametlwe, who is from the Democratic Socialist Movement, denied that they had hijacked the mineworkers strike.

‘We are in solidarity with the workers. Four weeks after the Marikana strike, we saw that no one was standing up for the workers and we offered them solidarity.’

He said his movement would canvas international support for mineworkers.

‘We will call for a solidarity march at SA embassies abroad, the day workers stage a national strike. It is not fair that mineworkers who are living in poor condition while the bosses pets are far better.’

Meanwhile, about 3800 clothing workers were on a pay strike in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal, their trade union said on Saturday.

‘Our members went on strike on Monday,’ SA Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union general secretary Andre Kriel said.

Kriel said workers wanted an extra R45 a week, as they only earned between R250 and R400 per week.

‘This is far below the legally prescribed minimum of an already low wage of R534 per week. We are determined to continue our fight for a living wage for clothing workers.’

The strike affected 35 companies, Kriel said.

The chairman of the Newcastle Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Alex Liu, said about 25 companies were affected by the industrial action.

‘Half of the companies affected by the strike have already reached an agreement with workers. We are hoping the number will be reduced to zero by Monday.’

About 3000 North West municipal workers participated in an anti-corruption march on Saturday, the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) said.

Spokesman Jacob Modeming, said they delivered a memorandum of demands to co-operative governance MEC China Dodovu and the district mayor of Bojanelo, Lowie Diremelo.

They called for the immediate resignation of political heads and municipal managers of the Rustenburg, Moretele, Moses Kotane, and Madibeng municipalities, and claimed some municipalities needed to be put under administration.

‘Municipal workers are concerned about the unacceptable levels of favouritism and nepotism and the political interference in administrative matters, and rampant corruption taking place on a daily basis in municipalities in the province,’ said Modeming.

The union produced a lengthy document detailing acts they considered to be that of favouritism and nepotism committed by specific municipal heads.

They demanded answers for mismanaged funds and money which they claimed was unaccounted for.

Samwu called for explanations behind the appointments of people they said were linked to municipal managers in a personal capacity.

‘We are giving them 10 working days to respond,’ said Modeming.

He claimed the local protest would be followed by national protests.