Market reaction to renewed inter-union violence at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) yesterday saw the company’s share price falling as much as 6.2 percent, the most in a month, before it closed 4.85 percent lower at R442.94.
The rand also weakened on the news. It was bid at R8.8874 to the dollar at 5pm, 6.86c lower than at the same time on Friday.
The police, Amplats, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) gave different versions of what happened. One worker has been reported dead and 11 people injured, including security guards.
Dumisani Nkalitshana, the national organiser for Amcu, claimed NUM shop stewards incited the violence by insisting on reopening their office at the shaft despite strenuous advice against doing so.
“When the underground shift came up, the NUM shop stewards shouted ‘Viva NUM’. ‘We are back’. The miners told them not to provoke them. At that time, mine security started shooting at the surfacing miners, resulting with (sic) five injured and one dead.”
Amplats said in a statement that a total of 12 people had been injured and received attention for non-life-threatening injuries.
Amplats said the incident involved members of the workers’ committee and NUM shop stewards. “The workers’ committee members are contesting NUM’s legitimacy at the mine and demanding that NUM vacate its offices,” it said.
This happened while the company was in the process of validating union membership at Rustenburg and the mines north of the Pilanesberg.
“Anglo American Platinum expresses its deep concern about this incident and appeals for its employees to remain calm and respect the company’s dispute resolutions process,” the Anglo American subsidiary added.
NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said the attack was on NUM officials who had started re-registering union members at the mine’s premises and reopening the offices that had been closed since December due to the violence.
He said the security guards had come to the rescue of four NUM officials and they had also been attacked.
Seshoka did not want to be drawn on reports that the attack was caused by clashes between NUM and Amcu.
However, a member of the workers’ committee, who did not want to be named, said the problems emanated from management’s obstinacy in refusing to recognise Amcu. “This creates a problem because workers in this mine do not want NUM as their union.”
Peter Attard Montalto, a London analyst with Nomura, said this was a reminder that the issues in the mining sector were only just beginning.
“Protest action has been rumbling on for some time and the mine has never really recovered since being at the heart of the action in August to October last year, even though most workers did return to work,” he said.
He said the clash between unions was over who was “controlling” workers during the protests against the Amplats downscaling process.
Amplats has delayed its plan to retrench up to 14 000 workers following a damage control meeting with unions and government representatives.
Attard Montalto believes that the mine story will keep developing throughout this year as Amplats and others move forward with downscaling and job losses and the government finds itself in an increasingly difficult political bind on the issue.
He said further deaths of union members was the last thing Amplats needed on its plate. It was politically difficult given the ongoing commission into the Marikana deaths.
“This will also not help Amplats in its dealings with an increasingly emboldened government on issues around mine rights, mine tax. Hence we remain very negative on the currency into the middle of the year as headlines build up.”