Expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema did not exploit workers at the Lonmin mine in Marikana, the league's suspended spokesman Floyd Shivambu said on Saturday.
“These mineworkers are not fools, they are not lifeless bodies, they are not robots, these are breadwinners, fathers, brothers and family heads of many households and they know who can best represent their interests,” he said in a statement, issued by the Friends of the Youth League.
Last week, 34 people were killed and 78 injured when police opened fire on striking workers.
In the week leading up to the shooting, another 10 people - including two police officers and two security guards - were killed.
The protests were believed to be linked to rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union over recognition agreements. Workers also wanted higher wages.
Shivambu rubbished claims by the Congress of SA Trade Union (Cosatu) that Malema was using the mine tragedy to destabilise the trade union federation.
“We are not enemies of Cosatu and we will never be. One thing for sure is that we will not shy away from the truth and we will at all times expose weaknesses that currently define the labour movement,” he said.
On Friday, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said political leaders were exploiting the workers.
“Suddenly politicians, far removed from the reality workers face... are suddenly positioning themselves opportunistically as the champions of the RDOs (rock drill operators),” he told reporters in Johannesburg.
“Their latest recruit is... Julius Malema, a wealthy, essentially right wing leader, who demagogically exploits any perceived weakness to encourage workers to leave their union, their only means of defence.”
Sivambu said there was nothing “right wing” about Malema.
“There is completely nothing right wing in advising workers to unite under a militant union if the one they are in is selling them out and killing them when they demand representation.”
“What is right wing is for leaders of workers receiving more that a R1 million annual salaries because of the sweat and blood of mineworkers.”
In May, the Mail & Guardian online reported that NUM general secretary Frans Baleni earned over R1.4 million a year. - Sapa