Rustenburg - Striking mineworkers in the platinum belt must go back to work, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said in Rustenburg on Thursday.
“We encourage all workers, not only NUM members, to go back to work... this is not a labour dispute, it is a strike intended to destroy the economy of our country,” NUM deputy president Thamsanqa Matosa said at Cosatu's May Day rally at the Olympia Park Stadium.
He said the union had asked platinum mining companies to protect employees who wanted to return to work.
“The NUM has not declared a dispute. It is unfortunate that our members have been intimidated.”
He told the crowd that workers had to defend themselves when attacked.
“People are being abducted. We can not run for ever. We must be men enough to defend ourselves in the absence of the police. It is not a crime to defend yourself. The police must arrest those attacking us.”
He said the union had made progress in recruiting back its members who joined the Association of Mineworkers and Construction (Amcu) before and after a violent strike at Lonmin's operations in Marikana in August 2012.
“Recruitment is our daily activity. We have recruited a high number of people.”
Amcu members have been on a strike at Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin since January 23, demanding a basic salary of R12 500 per month.
He said most of those who rejoined the NUM did not attend the rally because they had been intimidated.
“Some could not be here because they have been threatened with violence.”
North West ANC chairman Supra Mahumapelo told the crowd that Amcu should not be allowed to intimidate workers.
“We cannot allow them to continue to kill and intimidate our people.”
He said the police deployed in the volatile platinum belt should remain there after the May 7 election.
“Once the police leave those involved in violence will see an opportunity to continue with their violence.”
Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi appealed for unity within Cosatu.
“Unity is very important. There are divisions in Cosatu and Cosatu affiliates. Cosatu must be given the time and space to resolve its internal issues.”
He said Cosatu was not isolating members of the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa), but isolating union leaders who were misleading Numsa.
“Workers must not be used as a political ladder,” he said.
Numsa has been calling for Cosatu to convene a special national congress.
Cosatu is in an alliance with the ANC and the SA Communist Party. Cosatu has threatened to suspend or expel Numsa after the union said it was considering leaving the union federation.
Numsa resolved at its special national congress not to support the ANC or any political party in the May 7 election. - Sapa