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National Union of Mineworkers' (NUM) leaders on Tuesday dismissed expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema's call for them to step down.
“NUM was not elected by Julius and his cohorts,” union spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said.
He called for the speedy resolution of a strike by Gold Fields mineworkers. Malema spoke to them on Tuesday.
“There must be a national strike at all the mines until (NUM general secretary) Frans Baleni and the NUM leadership step down with immediate effect,” Malema said at Gold Fields' KDC west mine, near Carletonville.
Production at the mine was disrupted on Sunday when about 75 percent of the 15,000 workers downed tools.
One of their demands, given to management after a march on Monday, was the replacement of the NUM's branch leadership, and a monthly pay of R12,500.
Seshoka said the NUM was “not a youth organisation”.
“If he is calling for a national strike at mines, he doesn't know what he is talking about. He has never worked. He is equating it to a march of unemployed people.”
The miners were adults who had children to feed.
Seshoka said the NUM was not threatened by Malema's call, and was already attending to the issues raised by workers at Gold Fields.
“We hope to settle that speedily,” he said.
Malema told the mineworkers the R12,500 salary they wanted “is a reality”.
“Comrades, you don't have leaders. You are leaderless. You are not alone. We are encouraged by what you are doing.”
Making mines ungovernable did not mean violence, “it means downing tools”.
Malema said he and his companions had travelled to the mine to meet “the real revolutionaries”.
“This is a serious revolution. Don't give up.”
The mine obtained an interdict on Monday for workers to return to their posts after they went on a sudden, unprotected strike on Sunday.
After Malema's address, workers walked to a mine building for a planned meeting with a mine official, who did not arrive. They then returned to a field for further discussions.
“We are striking for ourselves. It has nothing to do with Marikana,” said Monwabisi Nginase, 39, who said he had worked for Gold Fields for six years.
He was referring to Lonmin's Marikana mine, where workers entered a second month of striking for a R12,500 monthly salary on Monday.
Thokozane Jili, 28, said at Gold Fields: “They (the NUM) betrayed us. They don't deliver our demands.”
As the day wore on, workers stopped giving their names to reporters.
Asked why there were no white workers present, the strikers said it was because “white and coloured workers are not on the same level as black workers”.
“That's why they are not here. They won't strike, because they are benefiting,” said one.
A worker, who described himself as a “narrator” rather than a representative, held up a copy of a Labour Court interdict, granted to the company on Monday, ordering workers back to their posts.
He said because it was an unprotected strike, the workers would all have to be in court on October 25 at 1pm, because they had violated their contract. He then tore the document up.
Workers said they had no leaders and would continue with their strike until their demands were met. They called on other miners to join their strike.
Malema had been touring mines and addressing disgruntled mineworkers.
The ANCYL and its parent body the ANC were at loggerheads over the nationalisation of mines, which the league was lobbying for, but the ANC had said was not feasible. - Sapa