Rustenburg - The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) gave dignity to workers, union president Senzeni Zokwana testified at the Lonmin commission of inquiry on Thursday.

Advocate Karel Tip, for the NUM, asked him to explain workers' wages and benefits to the commission.

Zokwana said the union had tried to close the wage gap in the mining industry.

“We have been able to make some strides (s) that mineworkers make a decent wage.”

He gave the example that mineworkers did not have paid leave or pension before 1987.

“NUM gave dignity to mineworkers.”

Tip said he would ask Zokwana on NUM's policies, and deal with allegations that NUM was not a caring union.

He would ask him about rock drill operators and what the union had done for them.

Zokwana would further testify on what had happened at Lonmin's Marikana mine while he was there.

Union members from both the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union and NUM, wearing their union t-shirts, filled the auditorium at the Rustenburg civic centre.

The commission is probing the deaths of 44 people at Lonmin's Marikana mine in August 2012.

On August 16, 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 wounded when police opened fire while trying to disperse a group gathered on a hill near the mine.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were hacked to death. - Sapa