NUM ‘sought peace in Marikana’

Rustenburg - Mineworker union NUM actively participated in peace-making after the death of 34 miners at Lonmin's Marikana mine, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Wednesday.

Advocate Karl Tip, for the National Union of Mineworkers, read back from a statement by union member Erick Gcilitshana submitted earlier.

Marikana commission chairman Ian Farlam. Credit: SAPA

“As with the negotiations concerning the peace accord, NUM had actively participated in the negotiation concerning the strikers' demands in order to ensure that a solution to the protracted violent unprotected strike was found.”

Gcilitshana was the first witness to be called by NUM. He is the union's health and safety national secretary.

He was also the chief negotiator during the mineworkers' strike at Marikana last year.

He said that since the start of the protests, NUM had urged workers to abandon the violent strike.

After deadly strikes claimed the lives of more than 40 people the peace accord between Lonmin, NUM, and fellow unions Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union and Uasa, was signed by all parties on September 18.

According to Gcilitshana's statement, NUM also helped the strikers' delegation with figures in wage proposals.

During Gcilitshana's testimony, the chronological events leading up to the shooting on August 16 were briefly run through.

Tip asked him about the murder of NUM members before the 16th, including that of a man who was shot five times and found near railway tracks, and another whose body was found with a bleached animal skull on it.

“Yes, that's the briefing we got from the security.”

Gcilitshana could give very little information on these deaths as he was not present at the time and was only informed of the killings by Lonmin security later.

Earlier, the commission heard that wage increases reached outside a bargaining agreement between workers and Impala Platinum had set a precedent for Marikana miners.

“It raised an expectation,” Gcilitshana said.

He testified that a wage increase given to miners at Impala Platinum in April 2012 following a strike was achieved outside a bargaining agreement. This created expectations among workers at Lonmin mines that this avenue would also be available to them.

When Gcilitshana was asked by Tip if he meant workers might also consider an unprotected strike, he answered: “Yes, that's correct”.

He was also asked, as the chief negotiator, about strikes at Lonmin's Karee mine in the North West.

On July 21, workers marched to Karee's head office. Gcilitshana

said he became aware of the strike only later.

Commission head Ian Farlam asked when he was informed of this strike.

“It was only a few days after the march.”

He confirmed Lonmin granted various increases to rock drill operators on July 23, without consulting the NUM.

Tip asked what the union's response was to this.

“As NUM we were not happy with the way the company did it. We believe we should have been involved.”

He said the union was not against workers receiving more money, but with the process followed.

The commission is probing the deaths of 44 people during an unprotected strike at the mine. Thirty-four striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 were wounded when police opened fire while trying to disperse a group gathered on a hill near the mine on August 16.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were hacked to death.

The inquiry continues. - Sapa