Allegations emerged that branch leaders of the NUM were holding non-strike members at the Gold Fields South Deep mine to ransom. Photo: Reuters and Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG – Allegations emerged that branch leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) were holding non-strike members at the Gold Fields South Deep mine to ransom, as intimidation intensified with the attack on the union's regional leader during a mass meeting yesterday.

Ndlela Radebe, the chairperson for NUM’s Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging region (Gauteng), is in hospital after he was stabbed in the neck and left shoulder at the Green Hills Stadium in Randfontein as he heard concerns of 800 non-striking members. A source close to the union said that non-striking members were raising their concerns after taking strain from the five-week-long strike aimed at opposing retrenchments. 

“The problem lies with the branch leaders. They want to strike indefinitely until the mine is shut down. We have more than 3 500 workers who want to go back to work. It is totally irresponsible for the branch to want an indefinite strike,” the source said.

On Sunday Radebe wrote a letter urging the branch to end the strike. 

“For more than three weeks to date, the region has been receiving countless calls from concerned union members that the strike is counter-productive and that it impacts them negatively and is threatening their jobs in the company,” said Radebe in the letter. He also said the union could not ignore the concerns of its members.

“We believe they (concerns) are legitimate, hence we are intervening and have decided to inform your branch leaders to bring the strike to an end and consider the proposed offer on the table, so that members can carry on with their lives and return back to work,” said Radebe.

NUM spokesperson said Livhuwani Mammburu said yesterday that the union strongly condemned violence.

“We do not encourage violence to address issues. Those who are responsible for violence must be arrested, even if they are union members,” Mammburu said, adding that the union was doing its level best to resolve the strike. NUM branch leaders rejected the company's sweetened offer. 

The sweetener, which included an increase in the severance package, would cost R40 million more than the R180m the company had already paid in retrenchment packages, the company said.

Since August, Gold Fields has retrenched 1 082 employees and 420 contractors at the South Deep mine.

Company spokesperson Sven Lunsche said yesterday that the company appreciated the NUM’s efforts to end the strike.

The company has previously said it hoped the retrenchments would be a game-changer for the mine, which has been losing R100 million a month.

Gold Fields shares closed 0.84 percent higher at R40.70 on the JSE on Monday.

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