Johannesburg - Desperate Aurora mineworkers, who have not been paid for four years, have vowed to shut down all Ekurhuleni mining operations from Monday and threatened those who want to work.
“We are not going to spare your life,” one of the miners’ leaders told the group on Thursday. His call was greeted with cheers.
The angry miners blamed President Jacob Zuma and the ANC for their misery.
Later, Julius Malema, the expelled ANC Youth League president, arrived to address the group.
The miners had invited Malema to witness the squalor in which they have lived since Aurora’s Grootvlei mine in Springs was closed in 2010. Many of them are homeless. Some said they live in the veld near the mine; others described falling victim to thugs.
One of their leaders, Sipho Myeni, begged Malema for help “to take us out of our misery”, saying the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the government had failed them.
“We’ve knocked at every door for help,” said Myeni. We went to NUM, our union leaders, but nothing came out of it. We went to the ANC. They turned their backs on us.
“President Jacob Zuma came to Aurora and inspected our living conditions. He took our payslips, promising to help, but he disappeared with them, until today.”
Myeni said that soon after Zuma’s visit, his nephew, Khulubuse Zuma, took over the management of Aurora. “It’s clear President Zuma was not here to sort out our problems but to scout for economic opportunities for Khulubuse.”
Some of the miners admitted that they and some of their family members had turned to crime to make a living.
Myeni alleged Aurora’s Gold One - a mine that is operational - was setting workers against each other. Mine management was allegedly employing undocumented immigrants instead of local workers. According to the residents and miners alike, this had led to several fatal attacks between the jobless and the employed.
Malema told hundreds of miners that the Friends of the Youth League would provide them with lawyers to help them recover their money from the liquidators.
“You do not have money to hire your own lawyers. We are going to put your leaders in touch with the liquidators to find out what really happened to the monies that belong to you,” he promised.
Minutes later, Malema took at swipe at Zuma. He repeated his allegations that the president was responsible for the poor working conditions of mineworkers throughout the country. He mentioned Marikana, where 34 protesting miners died during a wage protest.
“Ask yourself why these mine companies have politicians sitting on their boards. This is to allow these mines to give monies to the politicians. The mine bosses are paying protection fees,” he said.
“Jacob Zuma has five family trusts, and these mine bosses are paying money into these trusts. They are paying a protection fee to these trusts so that if you can go on strike, President Zuma can send police to Aurora to come and kill you. If you can’t trust your president, who else can you trust?”
Malema appealed to scab labourers to refrain from spying for the mine bosses.
“Magundwane [scab labourers], please do not allow mine bosses to divide you. The mine bosses will use you like a toilet paper and then flush you.”
He urged the jobless workers to demand a minimum wage of R12 500, like the striking workers at Lonmin’s mine at Marikana.
NUM leaders were also targets of his wrath: he accused them of being bribed by mine bosses.
Meanwhile, the mineworker strife appears to be spreading to other provinces.
Thousands of miners went on an illegal strike at Gold Fields’ mine in Westonaria on Wednesday, demanding a basic salary of R11 000 and that the NUM vacate its offices in the area.
A miner said the NUM had agreed with mine management to deduct R59 a month for a burial scheme from their salaries without any consultation.
Miners held a vigil on Wednesday at a hill they have named Marikana and ignored the NUM’s calls to go back to work.
After negotiations between miners and NUM representatives, it was agreed that the deductions would be stopped.
But the miners refused to disperse and were expected to camp at the Kloof gold mine this morning.
“We are going to kill people who try to go back to work. We must be united in this,” the miner said.
The ANC has taken a stance not to react to Malema’s comments, saying he was not part of the ruling party.
Additional reporting by Solly Maphumulo