Association of mineworkers and construction union (AMCU) president Joseph Mathunjwa. Picture: Tiro Ramatlhatse.

Johannesburg - The minerals of South Africa should benefit its citizens first before it is moved to other countries, Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said on Monday.

“The minerals have to benefit South Africans first before it benefits people in London or wherever they are,” he said at The New Age breakfast briefing in Johannesburg.

He said democracy meant nothing if people on the ground were suffering.

“You can have all this democracy but if you cannot feed your family it means nothing. So therefore after 20 years of democracy there's no person that can say 'I've benefited from the minerals of this country',” he said.

“Yes we won democracy, we got many black presidents but what does it say to a layman on the street.”

Mathunjwa said mineworkers were suffering, and the real issue was with the economy.

“Those workers on strike, it's not because they like it, it's a reality that they face every day.”

Mathunjwa emphasised that the pay of mineworkers in the past had not changed.

“The pay of mineworkers from 1652 was made by British was continued by the National Party....We hoped in 1994 it would change....In 20 years, the status quo still remains.”

He said mineworkers were currently earning R4500, the same amount that Indian and white mineworkers were earning in 1997.

“It took a black mineworkers to get to R4500 about 17 years. We are 20 years into democracy and nothing has been done.”

National Union of Mineworkers general secretary Frans Baleni agreed on wage disparities, saying inequalities were huge between race and gender groupings.

Members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union at Lonmin, Impala Platinum, and Anglo American Platinum in Rustenburg and at Northam in Limpopo downed tools on January 23, demanding a basic monthly salary of R12,500.

The strike has cost the companies over R17.9 billion in revenue and workers have reportedly lost more than R7.9bn in earnings. - Sapa