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Rustenburg - The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) asked for help from Lonmin management during violent strikes at its Marikana mine, the Farlam commission of inquiry heard on Tuesday.
The union's request was contained in an e-mail from Lonmin director Cyril Ramaphosa to Lonmin Plc chairman Roger Phillimore on August 15, the day before 34 miners were shot dead near the mine by police trying to disperse a group of striking workers.
The e-mail was read to the commission by lawyer Dali Mpofu, who is appearing for those who were injured and arrested during violent strikes at the mine in North West in August.
“I spoke to Senzeni Zokwana, president of NUM. He said he and Frans Baleni 1/8the NUM's general secretary 3/8 wanted to meet me and former NUM president James Motlatsi to discuss what they should do as a union going forward,” Ramaphosa wrote.
“James and I will meet them on Friday and exchange some ideas.”
Throughout Zokwana's earlier testimony, he maintained that the NUM was unable to properly communicate with the strikers because of the hostile situation.
He said there were not only attempts to burn down the NUM's office at the mine, but that shop stewards were threatened and some were killed. The rest had to go into hiding.
“What could we have done if people were killing our leaders? What could we have done if people didn't want to listen to us?” he asked.
He said the NUM's access to strikers was limited and that they refused to have the union negotiate on their behalf.
Mpofu read out six e-mails between Lonmin senior managers.
In one of them, Lonmin chief commercial officer Albert Jamieson described how, during a radio interview, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu had described the unrest at Marikana as a wage dispute.
“Not sure who briefed her. We are waiting to talk to her, and although not too damaging, it's also not too helpful,” he wrote.
In an e-mail to Ramaphosa and senior Lonmin staff, Jamieson wrote that the situation amounted to civil unrest which could not be resolved without political intervention, and needed to be stabilised by the police or army.
Ramaphosa had responded that he would talk to Shabangu.
“The terrible events that have unfolded cannot be described as a labour dispute. They are plainly dastardly criminal 1/8s 3/8 and must be characterised as such. In line with this characterisation there needs to be concomitant action to address this situation,” he wrote.
On Wednesday, Mpofu will cross-examine Zokwana on the e-mails.
The commission is investigating the 34 deaths on August 16, when 78 people were also wounded, and 10 deaths, including those of two policemen and two security guards, in the preceding week. - Sapa