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NUM left wage talks too late: inquiry

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IOL  Marikana Commission postponed

SAPA

Marikana commission chairman Ian Farlam

Rustenburg - The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) should have started Marikana wage talks with Lonmin sooner, the Farlam commission of inquiry heard on Monday.

“You were contractually able to open this discussion with Lonmin. You elected not to, until lives were lost,” Ishmael Semenya, for the police, said.

He was cross-examining branch chairman at Lonmin western platinum mine, William Sethele, during the inquiry in Rustenburg.

“I think it's your views,” Sethele responded.

Semenya argued the NUM should have approached Lonmin before the first two people, two security guards, were killed on August 12, during violent strikes at the company's Marikana mine in the North West.

Sethele maintained the union could not approach Lonmin without a mandate from its members.

“How can you talk of something that you don't have a mandate for? Where are you going to take that feedback? Because the people on the mountain didn't want us.”

Semenya said he would argue it was always possible for the NUM, as union, and Lonmin, as employer, to reach this agreement without loss of life.

Sethele disagreed, maintaining the NUM were unable to meet strikers.

“The union and management cannot reach a solution in the absence of the workers.”

Semenya asked him whether, if all parties had sat down for negotiations, it would have been possible for a wage agreement to have been signed before August 9.

“I think it's possible,” replied Sethele.

Earlier, he testified how he told striking Lonmin miners to return to work before the first deaths at Marikana.

“I stressed that employees who took part in illegal strike action may jeopardise their employment, and urged them to think of their families and dependents,” Sethele wrote in a statement.

Karel Tip, for the NUM, was reading from Sethele's statement at the inquiry.

Sethele said he even told strikers over a megaphone, on August 11, that the strike was unprotected and the union did not endorse it.

On Friday, the NUM's chief negotiator during the deadly strike, Erick Gcilitshana, testified the union's attitude towards wage negotiations during the strike, in August last year, was irresponsible.

The commission is probing the deaths of 44 people during an unprotected strike at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana, North West, last year.

Thirty-four striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 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 the two security guards, were hacked to death. - Sapa


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