Striking mineworkers at Impala Platinum near Rustenburg deserved what they were demanding and more, suspended ANC Youth League president Julius Malema said on Tuesday.
“Your bosses have a lot of money, they make a fortune from your work,” he said.
He told them the mines belonged to the workers and the community and they deserved all the benefits from them.
“We will never side with white capitalists who exploit you.
“The employer must be prepared to negotiate. Negotiations means give and take,” he said.
Malema, who was flanked by the North West premier and ANC deputy secretary general Thandi Modise, told the crowd that the mine could afford the workers’ R9 000 wage demand or more.
“Workers cannot be wrong,” he said to the applause of the crowd.
“Once workers decide on action, something must be wrong.”
Implats has previously said that the workers on illegal strike action had not officially made demands.
Malema said the ANCYL had called for the nationalisation of mines based on the conditions mineworkers were exposed to.
“You must benefit from the mine. If you are not benefiting, you must fight until you benefit.”
Malema called for the workers to return to work but said they should do so on condition that they would enjoy the benefits they had before the strike.
All workers should be reinstated with all benefits they enjoyed before the strike, he said.
“All must return to work, including your committee. They should not be expelled for leading the strike.”
“This mine has the responsibility to put water in the community, roads and proper schools… this is our turn to benefit from the resources. You must not stop fighting till you get what is rightfully yours,” Malema said to cheers from the crowd.
Many workers said they regarded Malema as a “true leader”.
“He is the one who can help us in our struggle,” said Abbey Sibanyoni, 48. “Malema is a true leader, that is why we want him to hear our problems,” he said.
“With Malema we will win,” said worker Kenneth Kubu, 38, against a background of revolutionary songs.
The crowd waved placards calling for Malema to intervene in their strike. “Our president Juju help us, we want money, not percent,” read one placard.
Another read: “Next president of SA, we want money and nationalisation of mines.”
The former mineworkers braved the scorching morning sun to wait for Malema.
The strike action has seen 17 200 of about 18 000 Impala Platinum (Implats) workers being fired and 15 000 being re-employed.
Three people have been killed and shops looted and vandalised by workers who went on a rampage.
The workers also passed a vote of no confidence in Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi who urged them to go back to work last week, pending negotiations.
The tensions at the Rustenburg mine began in January when rock drill operators went on an illegal strike. They were unhappy that another class of worker, miners, had been given a retention bonus.
They were joined by other mineworkers later in the month.
Scores of people have been injured in violence related to the illegal strike.
The premier told the mineworkers they had the government’s full support. It would be taking with it into negotiations the message that without workers the mine owners had no mine.
Modise said the government wanted to resolve the impasse and to get the striking workers back to work by next week.
She said: “We are here because we have heard your problems. We have met your leaders, we will meet the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and we will be there when they meet your employer. And when we come back to give you feedback next week you will be back at work.”
Modise appealed to the workers for calm amid the problems. “We want stability in this town, so we plead with you – no violence or you will lose the support of the government and the community.”
She warned them not to get caught up in power struggles. “You must not lose sight of the families and children you are working for.”
Implats spokesman Johan Theron said that about 1 000 workers had already left voluntarily, probably because they had found other jobs.
Implats and the NUM have both suggested the problem at the mine is not the result of unhappiness over pay, but due to the meddling of another union trying to gain access.
Theron said the situation at Implats was more a result of inter-union rivalry than a wage dispute.
“This was quite an open attack on the NUM and a deliberate attempt to destabilise the company and put us in position to talk to the other side and break our legal and moral responsibility to the NUM.” - Pretoria News