Johannesburg - Platinum mining companies are reverting to involving traditional leaders to end the wage dispute, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) said on Tuesday.
“That trick will never be successful. Traditional leaders cannot mediate in the wage dispute,” union president Joseph Mathunjwa told union members in Johannesburg.
“Their involvement will only result in ethnic violence in the platinum belt.”
Mathunjwa was addressing Amcu members who braved the rain in the city centre to march to Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) headquarters.
He said the union wrote a letter to Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, warning that mining companies and Contralesa would be accountable should violence erupt in Rustenburg in the platinum belt.
“Only an agreement can end the strike - not traditional leaders,” said Mathunjwa to the applause of the crowd.
In a memorandum to Amplats, the union demanded that the company meet its R12,500 entry level pay.
Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA (Contralesa) president Kgosi Setlamorago Thobejane led a delegation of traditional leaders to a meeting with mineworkers in Rustenburg on Sunday.
Thobejane told Sapa that traditional leaders were involved in the dispute because the strike was no longer an employee-employer issue.
“It is now a societal issue... its impact on families and business will soon retrench workers because the economy does not flow like before,” he said.
He denied that the traditional leaders were being used to end the strike.
“We told mining companies to give our people what they deserve. If they (the union) were in that meeting they could have heard our stance.”
Thobejane said union leaders like to portray workers as being united.
“On the ground, things are different. Individual workers want to go to work. They want to pay their debts and provide for their families,” he said.
“Our people deserve to be paid better, we need to do things in a respectable manner while waiting for better lives.”
Another meeting would be held at the Olympia Park stadium in Rustenburg on Wednesday.
He said traditional leaders were intervening in the strike to avoid another Marikana.
Forty-four people were killed in Marikana in 2012 during a wage strike at Lonmin.
34 mineworkers were killed on August 16, 2012 when police fired at them.
Ten people, including two policeman and two security guards, were killed in the preceding week.
Mathunjwa advised Amplats to stop sending messages to workers and to pull out television and radio adverts about the strike.
“The money could have been used to better mineworkers' pay.”
He said the strike was about the huge inequalities in the mining sector.
“The deeper a mine worker goes underground the more his pay remains small contrary to executives, the more they climb stairs in this building the more their pay rises.”
He said Amplats was able to pay its chief executive R17.6 million a year but could not afford to pay mineworkers R12,500.
Company representatives took delivery of the memorandum, and said Amplats was committed to finding a solution to end the strike.
Amcu members at Amplats, Lonmin and Impala went on a strike on January 23, demanding a basic monthly salary of R12,500. They were bussed in from Rustenburg in North West and Northam in Limpopo to participate in the march.
Mathunjwa promised to hire buses for them to take them home for the Easter holiday.
“You will be with your families this Easter. There will be buses for you.” - Sapa