A storm over the airwaves this weekend revealed that the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) is losing its grip on power in the platinum sector.
A call was made on Metro FM for the formation of a new labour movement by disgruntled Amcu members, who have accused the union’s leadership of derailing the course of workers. Instead they were driving a union marred by corruption and violence, and a cozy relationship with employers.
Thebe Maswabi, Amcu’s chairman at Anglo American Platinum’s Thembelani mine, speaking on the station, said workers were mobilising for a new union that would have their interests closer to heart.
In reference to Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa, he said: “Why are we paying Mathunjwa a salary? He is using the workers to enrich himself. He is not helping the workers; they are suffering. The workers need support and direction. They are tired and they need a leader who can speak for them and Mathunjwa is not doing his job properly.”
Amcu national organiser Dumisani Nkalitshana hastily convened a belligerent press briefing, at which he hit back at those making accusations against Mathunjwa.
Nkalitshana blamed Maswabi and disgruntled union members from Lonmin and Impala Platinum for sabotaging the union. “People must understand that Amcu never promised anything but providing services to help members in instances of unfair labour practices, and so far we have delivered on our mandate.”
The call for a new union comes as Amcu, the biggest union in the platinum sector, squabbles for membership with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). Workers had become disillusioned with both the unions, analysts said.
Amcu members behind the call for the formation of a new union were calling themselves a workers’ committee and wanted more control and transparency in the union, Terry Bell, a labour commentator, said yesterday. The union was unlikely to have an impact on the labour movement in the mining sector because most of its members were retrenched workers who were bitter about their job losses.
“There will be no immediate impact if a new union is formed. We are going to find a continued weakness in the NUM, and a further weakening of Amcu. This will only benefit the National Union of Metalworkers of SA [Numsa],” Bell added.
In Rustenburg and Carletonville, disgruntled Amcu members have alleged favouritism and corruption.
Weizmann Hamilton, of the interim committee of the Workers and Socialist Party, said: “Amcu has turned what was a historical decision by mineworkers to abandon the NUM into a missed opportunity. Members are finding that the union is not what they were hoping that it would be.”
There was a strong possibility that mineworkers would join Numsa, which had broken ties with the ruling party.