File image: Reuters

The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) has condemned the violence at the Lonmin mine that has claimed nine lives, and blamed the fighting on political skull-duggery.

“The federation believes that violence is in this case used as a political strategy to intimidate workers into making political choices about their association,” Cosatu said in a statement on Tuesday.

It said the outbreak of violence at Lonmin was similar to that of Implats in Rustenburg.

Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) deputy president Jeff Mthahmeme said earlier that the National Union of Mineworkers's (Num) recognition agreement with the mine was due to expire next month.

He claimed the opposition union, which is a Cosatu affiliate, was “misleading people” to ensure its majority was maintained.

Cosatu called on Lonmin and law enforcement to investigate the causes of the violence.

It also asked workers to stay unified and exercise discipline.

“The federation appeals to workers to observe maximum discipline and unity in the face of a political strategy geared towards dividing them and weakening their position in relation to mine bosses.”

Nine people - two police officers, two security guards, three protesters and two other men - have been killed during protests at the mine, which began on Friday. At least one of those killed was hacked to death.

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) on Tuesday called for the violence against workers, including police officers, to stop.

“We further call on those who disguise themselves as disgruntled workers to use available channels to address their issues, as hacking police officers to death will certainly not bring them fruitful results, but jail terms,” Popcru said in a statement.

Earlier, Lonmin's spokesman Barnard Mokwena defended the company against criticism that it had failed to protect its workers.

“I do not know any company that has the competency to deal with such vicious acts. We are dealing with people who crossed security lines repeatedly.”

He said the violent acts, such as the killings of two security guards, could have happened anywhere. - Sapa