Westonaria, West Rand - Workers should lead themselves when labour unions neglect them, expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema said on Monday.
“Leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) should know that you can't act for workers without consulting them, and don't take workers for granted,” he told strikers at Gold Fields' KDC gold mine in Westonaria, on the West Rand.
“If they fail you, you must lead yourself.”
Malema's speech evoked loud cheers from the miners, who have been on strike since last Wednesday.
They wanted the NUM's local leadership to resign.
Malema told the workers that one of their grievances had been resolved.
This related to money which management had apparently deducted from their salaries for a funeral policy without their consent. Malema said the money would be returned.
“Management was wrong to allow people to deduct money from you without your signatures.”
Malema said the deductions for the funeral policy would be terminated.
“But it must not end there. There must be criminal investigations (into) who did the fraud.”
Malema said the miners were not threatening foreign investment with their strike, as some newspapers had reported.
“We are threatening profits gained by greedy shareholders.”
Malema cited South African mining magnate Patrice Motsepe as an example.
“He became one of the millionaires... billionaires in less than 20 years. Why? Because the money he was supposed to share with the workers he did not share it.”
Malema said white management was not listening to workers' grievances because leaders of the African National Congress were involved in the mines.
He told his audience to continue fighting for better wages.
The ANC in the OR Tambo region, in the Eastern Cape, had declared that the minimum monthly wage for mine workers across the country should be R12,500, he said.
Workers wielded sticks and sang songs on Malema's arrival in a black Mercedes-Benz. - Sapa