AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa (L) briefs the media in Kempton Park, east of Johannesburg. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency(ANA)

Johannesburg - Trade union AMCU said on Friday that it was complying with the country's labour laws, disputing a government notice which said it could be de-registered for breaking rules governing how unions should operate.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), one of the largest trade unions in South Africa's mining sector, has thousands of members at mines operated by companies including Sibanye-Stillwater and Lonmin.

South Africa's labour registrar said in the government gazette this week that he intended to cancel the registration of AMCU because the trade union was "not a genuine trade union as envisaged in the (Labour Relations) Act".

If the registrar de-registers AMCU, it would not be able to continue operating. That could spark unrest in mining communities ifAMCU members protest.

"Everything is in line, what's the issue here? That's a political agenda because we are a militant union. We are driven by the masses," AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa told a news conference.

"It's clear there is a very concerted effort to destroy AMCU," Mathunjwa added.

A labour ministry spokesman told Reuters earlier this week that AMCU had not held a congress for more than five years, which meant that its senior officials had not been elected as they should.

In response, Mathunjwa said the union had started preparing for the congress but was delayed because of a strike at Sibanye that lasted five months.

"Give us just an extension of the date to move it forward. We are not running away from the congress," he said.

He said that AMCU was planning to meet the labour registrar and that in the meantime it was consulting its lawyers.

AMCU is known for its uncompromising stance and rose to prominence during labour unrest which led to the 2012 killing of striking mine workers at Lonmin's Marikana mine.

Unlike the rival National Union of Mineworkers, AMCU is not aligned with the governing ANC.