JOHANNESBURG – Violence flared at Sibanye Stillwater's Beatrix mine in Welkom, Free State, on Wednesday, as inter-union rivalry erupted over a wage strike.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) blamed the rival Association of Mining and Construction Workers (Amcu) for the violence.
NUM is the biggest union at the mine. Branch secretary Xolisa Nqwiliso said one of their members was killed after a bus taking non-striking workers to the mine was allegedly attacked by Amcu members for no reason.
“Those attackers started by closing the security gates, throwing stones at the bus that was transporting workers to work,” Nqwiliso said. “Unfortunately, one of our members was shot and killed and others sustained serious injuries.”
Amcu members downed tools across Sibanye's gold operations on Wednesday to demand a salary hike of R1 000 a year. NUM, Solidarity and Uasa earlier this month agreed to a R700 a year hike.
Sibanye spokesperson James Wellsted said the company had approached the Labour Court to interdict Amcu.
Wellsted said the interdict would help protect non-striking employees from intimidation and violence.
“In addition to the interdict, we have also suspended the night shift, because it is difficult to ensure safety of employees at night. We have also beefed up security during the day.”
Amcu, however, accused the NUM of being behind the violence, saying one of its members had been stabbed inside the hostel in Beatrix Mine on Wednesday night.
“These reports of attacks and intimidation towards our members are aimed at declaring our strike violent which subsequently would give Sibanye Stillwater ammunition to run to Labour Court and interdict the strike,” Amcu said.
The violence comes as communities around Sibanye's platinum mines yesterday announced plans to oppose the R5 billion Lonmin offer.
The Mining Forum of SA (MFSA) said yesterday that it planned to petition the Competition Appeal Court to block the merger, charging that communities were not properly consulted.
The MFSA said the merger could lead to Lonmin abandoning its Social and Labour Plan (SLP) commitments to uplift the communities.
MFSA president Blessing Ramoba said the forum was in the process of approaching the Competition Appeals Court to challenge the decision. “Once our lawyers file the appeal the merger will be null and void… There is no deal that's going to happen here.”
The tribunal approved the merger on Wednesday on condition that Sibanye implemented a six-month moratorium on job cuts once the merger had been finalised. Sibanye also committed to honour all of Lonmin's SLP commitments.
Ramoba said the merger did not “suit” the vulnerable communities around Lonmin's Marikana mine, where more than 44 employees were killed during a violent wage strike in August 2012.
The MFSA said it would take its opposition to the Constitutional Court should the Competition Appeals Court appeal fail.
“Our view is that Sibanye should be given an opportunity to do an in-depth assessment of the operational requirements of the target firm and consult with all relevant stakeholders which include trade unions,” said the tribunal on Wednesday.
The tribunal was also unable to determine the exact number of merger-specific retrenchments which may be between 885 and 13 344.