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Rival unions face off at Marikana hearing

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IOL pic sep7 lonmin marikana marchers

Reuters

File photo: Protesters at Marikana.

Competing unions brought multitudes of supporters to the Farlam Commission on Wednesday, when the president of Amcu gave evidence relating to the Marikana violence.

Activists in the red regalia associated with the Congress of SA Trade Unions and its affiliate, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), outnumbered those affiliated with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) in the public gallery.

NUM general secretary Frans Baleni attended Wednesday's proceedings.

Wearing sunglasses, he rose and waved at supporters, who stood up and waved back.

Family members of the dead mineworkers, mainly women, wore the green T-shirts associated with Amcu.

Wednesday was Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa's second consecutive day in the witness stand. He was led in giving evidence by advocate Timothy Bruinders SC.

Mathunjwa said that when he finished addressing protesters gathered on a hill near Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana, he was “very positive” the strike would end the following day.

The workers had instructed him to talk to Lonmin management and return to the hill on the morning of August 16.

Several representatives of the protesters said they did not want to see the NUM and wanted to negotiate only through Amcu.

Mathunjwa said after briefing North West deputy provincial police commissioner Lt-Gen William Mpembe, the senior policeman saluted union members.

“We were all positive the strike would end the following day,” he said.

On August 16, Mathunjwa said he was late for the meeting with Lonmin which had been scheduled for 8am. He had to drive from Mpumalanga, he told the commission.

“When I arrived at the venue there was a large presence of NUM supporters wearing T-shirts. I was told there was a (SA Police Service) SAPS media briefing.

“I asked (Jomo) Kwadi (a Lonmin executive) what NUM was doing there if it was a police media briefing. I asked why was Amcu not invited and Nkwadi said it was a briefing of the SAPS,” said Mathunjwa.

He said Kwadi told him to wait as Lonmin's bosses were still negotiating about the way forward with regard to the strike.

Bruinders said there were allegations that while waiting for Kwadi, Mathunjwa approached another Lonmin executive to ask for a seat at the bargaining table in return for ending the strike.

“That is not true,” said Mathunjwa.

He told the commission that when Kwadi arrived, he said he did not have good news and that Lonmin management had resolved not to honour a commitment made during its meeting on August 15.

“He (Kwadi) was referring to the commitment made by management that once workers leave violence and return to work, the management would resolve their issues,” said Mathunjwa.

“I was agitated. They were reneging on their commitment. I had already communicated that (commitment) to the workers. I felt we were betrayed as a union,” he said.

Later, the Lonmin executives brought a cellphone to Mathunjwa.

“The person on the phone did not introduce herself. She was just rude and her voice was harsh. That person was North West provincial commissioner Lt-Gen Zukiswa Mbombo,” said Mathunjwa.

“She kept saying I had made a commitment to return to the koppie (hill) by 9am. I told her I had been delayed by the Lonmin management who had somersaulted from their commitment. She said she doesn't care,” he said.

The Amcu team then headed to the joint operation committee, where it met Mbombo, who was taking over the operation.

“She said we were late, the sun was hot and the matter had to be finished that day. I explained the reasons for us being late and she said she wasn't interested,” said Mathunjwa.

“She repeatedly said that our reasons were not her business,” he said.

The hearing continues. - Sapa


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