File image: Reuters

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has sent a team to discuss the demand by striking Gold Fields workers that their union branch leaders be removed, the union said on Tuesday.

“There have never been any complaints about the branch there. We are surprised as well,” NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said on Tuesday.

The demand was made in a memorandum handed over when around 15,000 workers suddenly went on strike at the company's KDC west mine, on the West Rand.

On Monday night and Tuesday morning, the NUM sent leaders to speak to the workers, find out what their issues were, and take appropriate action.

Seshoka said the branch leaders were elected by the workers themselves and they could replace them if they wanted to.

“Workers generally have got the right to do so, because that is the leadership elected by them,” said Seshoka.

Expelled African National Congress Youth League president Julius Malema was expected to address workers at the gold mine on Tuesday.

Malema, who has been lobbying the ANCYL policy of nationalisation of mines, has been visiting mines and addressing disgruntled mineworkers in the past two weeks.

Seshoka said he did not think the events on mines over the past few weeks were a sign that workers were losing faith in the NUM.

“Not really. Our feeling is that we are seeing a situation in which one strike action prompts another. It's a mixture of a whole of issues.

“We have got politics. We have got a whole lot of issues involved.”

Production has been halted at Lonmin's platinum mine near Rustenburg for a month.

An unprotected strike began on August 10. Ten people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed in the ensuing violence.

On August 16, 34 people were killed when the police opened fire on striking workers near the mine.

Their rallying cry has been for a pay increase to R12,500 a month.

At Goldfields on Monday, one of the demands of striking workers there was that their wages also be increased to R12,500. - Sapa