Johanensburg - Just as the government was busy trying to broker peace between rival mine unions another union official was shot dead sparking fears that violence could once again flare in Marikana.
National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) chairman at Lonmin’s Rowland Shaft was allegedly shot several times before running into the union office where he was “finished off” at about 11am on Monday.
A branch treasurer, Patrick Phatswane was shot and wounded after he apparently asked the assailants, “what are you guys doing?”
“It was just after they have had their routine Monday meeting when two unknown armed men pounced on them as they walked out. They went straight for the shaft chairperson who ran into the office but they shot at him following him inside where he was finished off,” said NUM regional leader Mxhesi Sithethi.
“Another official was shot after he asked the armed men what they were doing while others had run for cover. It’s not safe for us anywhere anymore whether we’re at home, office or at the mine itself.”
The news of this latest murder in Rustenburg’s platinum belt reached a closed door meeting in Kempton Park between Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, leaders of the National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu) and its affiliate Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) as well as Cosatu and its affiliate NUM on Monday.
The incident is believed to be linked to a turf war between Amcu and NUM. The deceased was killed at NUM offices near Wonderkop Hostel.
These are the same offices Amcu and its members have been demanding that NUM leave as they are now the minority union. NUM, which has enjoyed the majority status in the mining industry for decades, was unseated by Amcu earlier last year.
The union has been given until July 16 to recoup lost membership or vacate the office, a privilege that is determined by membership size.
Amcu workers went on an illegal work stoppage last month demanding NUM vacate the office following the killing of the Amcu’s regional organiser Mawethu Stevens that was followed hours later by the murders of NUM members Andile and Ayanda Menzi.
A NUM branch secretary Daluvuyo Bongo was killed at Wonderkop Hostel just days after he had shown delegates of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, which is investigating last year’s killings during the violent Lonmin strike, around union offices that were allegedly attacked by strikers last year. Bongo was to testify at the commission.
Monday’s meeting between Oliphant and the unions was one of the many to come as announced by President Jacob Zuma in his statement aimed at assuring investors that his government was intervening to restore stability in mining to boost the country’s economy.
Oliphant said the unions have agreed to engage and discuss ways of bringing back stability and peace to the mines. Violence has persisted in the mines despite a peace accord signed by unions and employers last year.
Oliphant said she also urged unions to be responsible in the coming bargaining period urging them to make “strikes the last resort”. She said union leaders were also asked to refrain from making utterances that will fuel violence.
The minister said the government was impartial in its intervention. She said the security cluster will also be engaged.
“If we to deploy a peace-keeping force then we’ll do it. We can’t take chance,” she said.
Oliphant said her department through the CCMA will do membership verification to determine once again who the majority union in mines was.
“We’ve agreed that if Amcu is the majority, then let it be so,” she said.
Nactu president Joseph Maqhekeni welcomed the government’s effort but said Monday’s meeting was not all smooth.
“NUM and Cosatu attacked us (making statements) suggesting that Amcu were killers and we challenged them to give us proof.”
NUM, Amcu and Cosatu could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Meanwhile, police spokesman Colonel Sabata Mokgwabone said police will continue to maintain a presence in Marikana.
The name of the deceased NUM chairman had been withheld until his family had been notified of his death.