Union leader denies claim of wage pledge
The Farlam Commission listened on Tuesday to a recording of a heated meeting involving unions, Lonmin mine executives and the police.
In the meeting, held in Rustenburg on August 15, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) president accused the rival Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) of promising a pay hike to rock drill operators.
The police called the meeting to ask the unions to intervene in what had become a violent strike.
The North West province’s deputy provincial commissioner, Major-General William Mpembe, appealed to the unions to ask their members to disarm and disperse. The workers were encamped on a hill near Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana.
“Both of you, help me to defuse this situation. I am not here to judge and say this or that union is rude. I am here for safety and security,” he said.
By the time the talks were held, 10 people – including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards – had been killed in strike-related violence.
NUM president Senzeni Zokwana had refused to address the strikers on the hill, saying they were armed “and had been fed propaganda by those who have been addressing them”.
“People should be told to leave that mountain. We cannot negotiate with people who are armed. It’s not that we are cowards; we respect the law,” said Zokwana.
Amcu officials had previously addressed the workers on the hill.
“We know that there are our members there [on the hill]. A number of our members have been grabbed against their will,” he said.
Amcu leader Joseph Mathunjwa said: “Black people are being killed there. The things that happened in the dark days of South Africa are resurfacing. This blaming game will not take us anywhere.
“You [Lonmin] should blame yourselves 110 percent. If you had responded to my letter I don’t think we would be sitting here talking about the loss of lives.”
He denied Zokwana’s claims that the newly established union had promised rock drill operators a monthly salary of R12 500.
“We only went to the mountain to seek answers. We were there to get the facts. The workers told us they wanted R12 500,” Mathunjwa said.
He accused the mine of speaking to the strikers and of promising them incentives without involving the unions.
At that stage, Lonmin mine executive Bernard Mokwena said it had asked the police to put their intervention plans on hold and give the unions a chance to resolve the matter.
Mathunjwa responded: “Don’t threaten us by saying the police will go and shoot. That is apartheid syndrome.”
Zokwana said his union would not address the protesters in the same forum as Amcu.
Mokwena said Lonmin was not prepared to negotiate with the strikers outside traditional collective bargaining processes. The meeting had ended “quite late”, Mathunjwa testified on Tuesday.
The unions later headed for the hill separately, but armed protesters turned the NUM delegation away.
The next day, August 16, police opened fire on the miners on the hill, killing 34 and wounding 78. – Sapa