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Expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema has demanded the resignation of National Union of Mineworkers general secretary Frans Baleni, saying he and his colleagues have failed striking miners.
Instead, the NUM stole gold from the poor miners and made billions as shareholders in the mines, he said.
Escalating his “mine revolution” to Gold Fields’ KDC West gold mine in Carletonville, south of Joburg, on Tuesday, Malema called on the miners to hold a national strike across all mines until Baleni was forced out.
Baleni and the NUM are among those who back President Jacob Zuma’s bid for a second term in Mangaung, where he is expected to be challenged by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, who Malema supports.
Addressing about 15 000 miners, Malema urged them to protest five days a month until their demands for a R12 500 monthly wage were met.
Malema turned on ANC national chairwoman Baleka Mbete, who is seen as a Zuma ally, saying she was part of the problem because she had shares in Gold Fields.
Mbete could not be reached for comment late on Tuesday.
Malema repeated his earlier claim that Zuma did not care about the plight of the miners because mine bosses had deposited money into his family trust as “protection fee”.
But he again failed to provide proof.
Malema called for a change of guard in the NUM.
“There must be a national strike at all the mines until Frans Baleni and the NUM leadership step down with immediate effect,” he said.
The former youth leader claimed Baleni only read about the problems of the workers in newspapers or heard about them on television.
“There must be a national strike. They have been stealing this gold from you. Now it’s your turn. These people have been making billions from these mines,” Malema yelled.
“You must strike for five days a month and demand R12 500 until they listen,” he said to a rapturous response.
NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka dismissed Malema’s claims against Baleni as “fallacious, while Cosatu condemned his call for the NUM leader’s sacking as “irresponsible”.
Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said the former youth leader was “playing a dangerous game” and exploiting the emotions of angry workers.
“This can only inflame tensions within the mining industry; flames which he is quite incapable of quenching,” Craven said.
He urged the workers not to allow themselves to be used as a political football, to remain united and strong and to focus their anger on their real enemy, the mining bosses.
Malema also took his fight to prominent mine bosses such as Patrice Motsepe and Cyril Ramaphosa, saying they should share their profits with the poor.
Maureen Mphatsoe, the group communications manager of Ramaphosa’s company Shanduka, said Ramaphosa was not available for comment.
Malema said the miners were being unfairly blamed for what happened in Marikana.
“They can arrest us. We don’t care. They can kill us tomorrow. They cannot kill our ideas.
“The workers will continue to sing the song of nationalisation.
“We will never retreat. We are with you. We are a phone call away,” Malema said.
Malema’s popularity with the miners was palpable, with some expressing a wish for him to form a union in the sector.
They sang pro-Malema songs and surrounded his car as he arrived and referred to him as “president.”
Many said they believed Malema could help them to convince the mine bosses to give them the R12 500 salary they are demanding.
“Bosso ke mang? Ke Juju [Who is the boss? It’s Juju],” said the excited miners reciting a kwaito song.
“Juju is my life saviour,” yelled one of the striking miners as a vehicle transporting Malema appeared.
Another miner brandished a placard reading “Juju my hero.”
A group of miners spoke among themselves as they made their way to Masizakhele stadium, where Malema addressed, them saying that if he were to establish a union, they would join it.
“He listens to the poor. He understands our problems. We need a mine union that will address our problems,” grumbled a miner who did not want to be named.
Malema ended his speech with a solemn song. “Noma besidubula, besishaya, besibopha, siyaya noma kunzima [Even if they kill us, and beat us up, we are not going to surrender no matter how hard it is].”
Miners downed tools at Gold Fields’ Driefontein mine on Monday. They are demanding the removal of the NUM’s branch leadership and equalisation of salaries across job categories. Like the Marikana miners, they are also demanding a salary of R12 500. - The Star