The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union’s (Amcu’s) support for the urgent application by mineworkers to gain access to the hostel at Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu mine was a “publicity stunt”, the South Gauteng High Court heard yesterday.
The accusation was heard during closing arguments in the application brought by Amcu members at the court.
Frans Barrie, the lawyer representing Harmony, argued that if the application was granted, Amcu members would inevitably stream back in numbers and make it impossible to reopen the mine.
He feared that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) would join the fray and violence would flare up again.
“Amcu has pursued the urgent application as part of a publicity campaign,” he said.
About 6 000 jobs are on the line at Kusasalethu, which was closed indefinitely on January 2, following three months of labour unrest that claimed the lives of two workers who were hacked to death with pangas.
About 1 700 workers held an underground sit-in last month.
Judge Ndawoyakhe Tshabalala noted that if the miners were allowed into the hostel the remaining workers at the mine might want to return, which could lead to chaos.
While the company has offered to pay for transport of employees to return home, the court heard that 50 workers were being housed in a tent at a nearby church after the mine had closed. They had brought the application for access to the hostel to the court last week.
Of the 1 800 hostel residents, 38 essential services employees have remained.
The mine had no option but to close the hostel premises to adhere to requirements of the Mine Health and Safety Act to minimise danger to life and limb, the judge said.
However, Ivan Miltz, a lawyer for the employees, refuted allegations that the urgent application had been filed as a membership drive.
“One would expect that if this was a membership drive one would not have the 500 people but the thousands who returned to the mine at the beginning of the year,” he said.
He added that since last month there had been no violence at the mine, and the application should not be allowed to be coloured by the events.
He argued that there had been no suggestion of violence or threats to people. Since being denied access, the workers had been acting properly and they had made demands that had not been met.
Amcu represented 62 percent of the employees at Kusasalethu, with the balance belonging to the NUM, Uasa and Solidarity.
In an open letter to newspapers earlier this month Harmony chief executive Graham Briggs said: “We have 60 days to save the mine.”
A consultation process in line with section 189a of the Labour Relations Act is under way. Judgment in the application has been reserved.