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Lonmin’s insistence on NUM ‘cynical’

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Independent Newspapers

Commission chairman Ian Farlam File picture: Oupa Mokoena

Pretoria - Lonmin's insistence in 2012 on conducting pay talks only via the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in Marikana was cynical, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Thursday.

“I put to you that Lonmin's insistence meant there could be no effective communication with the strikers and Lonmin knew it,” evidence leader Geoff Budlender SC, said.

He was cross-examining Lonmin's vice president of Karee mining operations Michael Gomes da Costa at the commission's public hearings in Pretoria.

Da Costa said the company was willing to bargain with the NUM as it was the recognised union, and not the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

“There was a lot of animosity towards NUM from the people on the koppie (a hill where the strikers used to gather ),” he said.

When Lonmin refused to speak to the strikers' representatives, it was saying to the strikers it would only speak to them through people they did not trust and were in conflict with, Budlender said.

“We will only speak to you through people who don't support your demand. We will speak to you only through people who don't represent you.”

Budlender said Lonmin's stance to only communicate with the NUM meant it would not negotiate at all with the strikers.

Da Costa replied: “It's difficult for me to disagree with you. I don't think Lonmin's intention was not to engage with the people.”

He said a number of issues had to be considered.

“We weren't quite sure who represented the members,” Da Costa said.

The commission, chaired by retired Judge Ian Farlam, is investigating the deaths of 44 people during the violent wage-related strike at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg in the North West.

On August 16, 2012, 34 people, mostly mineworkers, were shot dead by police who were trying to disarm and disperse them.

Ten people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed during the preceding week.

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