Rustenburg - The working conditions under which rock drillers operate impair their dignity, a National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) member agreed on Wednesday at the Farlam commission of inquiry in Rustenburg.
The statement was put to Saziso Gegeleza by lawyer Dali Mpofu, representing those injured and arrested during violent strikes at Lonmin's Marikana mine last year.
Gegeleza agreed that rock drillers, generally, were underpaid and worked under difficult conditions.
“I agree that all people employed by the mine work under difficult circumstances, not just the machine operators,” he said.
Asked by Mpofu whether rock drill operators were still called machine boys, as they were during apartheid, Gegeleza replied: “It 1/8the term 3/8 is still being used, yes.”
Mpofu then turned his attention to Gegeleza's testimony on Tuesday about the events of August 11, when striking workers tried to attack the NUM's office at the platinum mine, in the North West.
Gegeleza said NUM shop stewards had confiscated weapons from striking miners. NUM western platinum branch secretary Daluvuyo Bongo later handed weapons to people in the office on learning that a group of strikers was heading towards the office to burn it down.
“I was given a knobkerrie and a spear,” Gegeleza said.
He said the group of strikers threw stones and shouted: “Here are these dogs”.
“They were so aggressive and they came towards the office running.”
Gegeleza said the group had sticks, knobkerries, pangas and spears.
“I had fear. I was afraid, but I wanted to protect my life as well as the offices of the NUM.”
He said that as the two groups were about to meet, gunshots were fired and the strikers retreated.
Mpofu asked how the group of about 20 people from the office had believed that, armed only with a few sticks, spears and a panga, they could defend themselves against such a large group.
“I have never been taught that winning depends on numbers,” Gegeleza said. - Sapa