North West - Lonmin management was not ready to receive rock drill operators' grievances before workers at the platinum mine in North West went on strike on August 10, a union leader told the Farlam Commission on Tuesday.
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union president Joseph Mathunjwa was giving evidence on events leading up to the police's shooting of 34 protesters on a hill near the mine August 16.
He said Amcu did not formulate the workers' demand of a monthly salary of R12,500 and did not organise the strike action.
“I believe the workers themselves organised that strike.”
Mathunjwa said he first heard a rumour of a planned strike from Lonmin senior executive Bernard Mokwena in July.
Even though Mathunjwa then asked for an urgent meeting involving all unions represented at the mine, he next heard from Lonmin only on August 10.
“When I heard from him (for the second time), Mokwena said he did not know the people who were planning to march to the mine to present a memorandum.
“He said the mine executives were not ready to receive that memo and the police would receive it,” said Mathunjwa.
“Again, I requested that an urgent meeting be organised with all trade unions: Amcu, the National Union of Mineworkers, Solidarity and another trade union, UASA. Still there was no response,” he said.
Mathunjwa said he advised Mokwena “not to set a precedent” where the workers represented themselves outside, and the police received their memorandum.
He said he got to know the detailed information about the strike on August 13.
“I received a call from Jomo Kwadi, of Lonmin, asking for our intervention. He said there was violence at the mine,” said Mathunjwa.
“I asked him where the leaders of other unions were and he said they had had those leaders the previous day. I asked him why we had not been invited because we had asked for a meeting,” he said.
Mathunjwa said that on August 13, he sent a team to investigate the incidents at Lonmin. It was led by the union’s general secretary.
The team reported back to Mathunjwa on August 14 and a press conference was organised.
A press release for that briefing was read out to the commission on Tuesday. In it, Amcu said it suspected “sinister forces” were behind the violent protests at the mine.
The three-member commission, led by retired judge Ian Farlam, is holding public hearings as part of a probe into the killing of 44 people during wage-related violence at Marikana, in North West.
Thirty-four striking miners were shot dead on August 16 and 78 were wounded when the police tried to disperse the protesters, who had gathered on a hill near the mine.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were hacked to death near the mine.
The commission was announced by President Jacob Zuma in August. The other commissioners are senior advocates Bantubonke Tokota and Pingla Hemraj.
Its mandate is to probe the mine violence and the killing of the 44 miners.
Zuma said the commission would complete its work within four months, and would have to submit its final report a month later. - Sapa