Hearts and mines

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MINE FIELD: Julius Malema salutes striking miners at Gold Fields as he arrives to address their problems yesterday. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

STAFF REPORTERS

Julius Malema continued his high-profile march into the mines yesterday and tore into the leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers, mine bosses and politicians.

He branded them “criminals” and “bloodsuckers” for “stealing the workers’ money” through allegedly fraudulent deductions.

Malema, who led the striking workers by singing the banned Shoot the boer, shoot the farmer, called for criminal investigations into the NUM and the bosses in connection with the deductions.

“It’s clear that NUM leaders and management are corrupt,” he said, to rapturous applause from the illegal strikers at Gold Fields’ Kloof gold mine complex on the West Rand.

He told them to keep on demanding R12 500 a month, like their Lonmin counterparts.

At the same time, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, addressing his Gauteng shop stewards in Joburg, called for a minimum wage of R4 500 across all sectors.

Malema urged the striking workers to choose leaders who would not betray them by siding with management.

“There are leaders today who think they can’t be replaced because they think they were born leaders,” he said.

“NUM has been hijacked by people who are greedy and fighting for positions in the ANC [who say] you can’t strike… [or ] fight before Mangaung because you will be jeopardise [sic] Jacob Zuma,” he said, referring to the ANC’s elective conference in Mangaung later this year.

Malema reiterated his calls for the nationalisation of the mines and accused ANC chairman Baleka Mbete and mining magnate Patrice Motsepe of enriching themselves at workers’ expense.

“Those who are owning the mines accuse us of threatening investment,” Malema said.

“Patrice Motsepe became one of the billionaires in less than 20 years. Why?

“The money he has is supposed to share with the workers, but he didn’t share it with them.

“Leaders of the ANC own shares in the mines.

“Madam Baleka Mbete is a major shareholder of majority BEE shares here,” Malema said, to calls of “sies!”.

He urged the miners to intensify their strike until their demands were met. A protracted strike would honour their colleagues who had died at Lonmin’s Marikana mine.

He said the mine bosses could afford this “because they make trillions”.

Malema, after lambasting the NUM, called on the miners to defend Vavi, who he said was under attack for his “militancy and loyalty” to the workers.

At Cosatu’s shop stewards’ conference, Vavi was greeted by loud cheers of support and singing as he called for a national minimum wage to avoid another Marikana, where at total of 44 people were killed.

The situation there was exacerbated by the low wages of between R4 000 and R6 400, he said.

“A worker who goes down [into a mine] to risk his life deserves not only R12 500 but many more times above that,” said Vavi, to loud applause.

Meanwhile, police moved in yesterday after four men were shot and injured by security guards during a protest by fired strikers at Gold One’s Modder East mine near Springs.

After the police arrived, there was a tense stand-off.

Miners threw rocks at them, and police fired teargas and rubber bullets.

Police said charges of attempted murder were opened after the shootings.

Meanwhile, at Ga-Rankuwa in North West, 162 of the 270 miners arrested following the Marikana shootings of August 16 were released late yesterday after the state withdrew the main charge of murder against the whole group.

Lonmin, which owns the Marikana mine, said only 4.5 percent of its 28 000-strong workforce reported for work yesterday – down from a third in the immediate aftermath of the August 16 shootings.

The company attributed the low numbers to uncertainty and continuing intimidation.

It was waiting for a peace accord to be reached among all parties, it said. Lonmin has lost 2 500 ounces of platinum production a day since the strike started on August 10.

Gold Fields, where Malema spoke yesterday, said all 12 000 miners at the mine had been on strike since Wednesday.

Their action had brought production to a standstill, the mine management said.

Workers had gone on a wildcat strike over what they termed an illegal deduction of R69 for a state pension fund.

The mine management has revoked the pension scheme, but workers vowed not to return to work until their NUM branch leaders stepped down.

The mine produces 1 600 ounces of gold each day, but had survived since Wednesday on stockpiles

until it ran out at the weekend.

More than 1 000 miners there were fired after embarking on an illegal strike in June.

Mine management said the strike was organised by the Professional Transport and Allied Workers Union, which is demanding recognition, while the company recognises only the Cosatu-affiliated NUM.

See pages 6, 10, 12 and Business Report


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