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Lonmin strikers issue ultimatum

North West - Lonmin platinum mine bosses were issued an ultimatum on Tuesday – choose between productivity or the National Union of Mineworkers.

White crosses erected by the DA mark the spots where 34 miners were shot dead near Marikana last year. File photo: Tiro Ramatlhatse. Credit: The Star

“If NUM vacate their offices on July 3, we will go back to work on July 4... And the employer must choose between productivity and NUM.”

This was the message to bosses of the mine in Marikana outside Rustenburg in North West by striking workers after their union gave them feedback from their meeting with management.

The workers, mostly members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), embarked on a wildcat strike on Tuesday, demanding that:

- NUM’s offices be shut down as the union was no longer the majority union on Rustenburg’s platinum mines.

- The implementation of the recognition agreement that would see Amcu being officially declared the majority union.

- An end to what they called fraudulent membership, as well as the carrying of dangerous weapons at all mines.

The workers also complained that they had not been paid the 12.5 percent wage increase that was agreed to last year.

After waiting for almost the whole day, the feedback the miners received from their leaders was not what they had wanted to hear.

The meeting with management, the leaders said, had not been fruitful.

“Management say they can’t close NUM’s offices now. The employer is refusing and says the union had been given notice that they will end (their occupation of offices) on July 3,” said a voice from a loudhailer.

The message was met with jeers of protest.

“The employer is playing games. He must choose between production and NUM,” one of the workers said.

The workers resolved that they would intensify their strike action.

Throngs of miners, many sporting green T-shirts, had been moving in regiment-like, choreographed formations while chanting songs denouncing anyone who opposed their cause and their union.

The green Amcu T-shirts stood out in the winter sun, contrasting with the bright yellow T-shirts emblazoned with the bold UDM (United Democratic Movement) letters and an imposing, almost larger-than-life, picture of the party’s leader, Bantu Holomisa.

Not a single T-shirt of the ANC or NUM was to be seen.

By the time the Amcu leaders arrived, the numbers had swelled to about 5 000.

Even before the leaders arrived to pronounce their demands, the members had aired their grievances in chants and songs.

“Ubani lo bulelekhe uSteve simthanda so (who killed our beloved Steven)... The liars will create more problems for themselves, the murderers hate us and (ANC secretary-general Gwede (Mantashe) will regret (it),” they chanted.

The workers also chanted derogatory songs denouncing President Jacob Zuma.

Without mentioning NUM, the workers sang songs suggesting that they would rather pack their belongings and leave than be bullied or dictated to.

The gathering was attended by workers from Lonmin’s three divisions of its Eastern, Western and Karee mines. The strike seemed to have taken the Lonmin mine management, who suspended all operations on Tuesday, by surprise.

Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey said operations at the mine’s 13 shafts had to be suspended after workers refused to go underground.

“Operations have been suspended because of an illegal strike. Our 13 shafts are not operational because the employees arrived for work but did not proceed underground,” Vey said.

She added that management was meeting the various union leaders “as we do not know the reasons for the illegal strike. Our rules are clear about illegal strikes.”

But union leaders urged workers to go to their respective shafts to stage sit-ins and not to go underground.

A memorial service was expected to be held for murdered unionist Mawethu Khululekile Steven at the Karee Stadium on Thursday. He had been listed as a witness for the Farlam Commission.

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