(File image) Cosatu general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. Photo: Bongiwe Mchunu

Johannesburg - Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi has lashed out at the police’s “skiet and donner” use of live ammunition during protests, and appealed for worker unity in the face of a “co-ordinated political strategy to use intimidation and violence” by the labour federation’s enemies.

“There is a systematic campaign to politically discredit the federation, particularly NUM [National Union of Mineworkers],” he said yesterday.

“Political hyenas are using [miners’] genuine grievances to whip up their emotions against those who have genuinely fought for them,” he said.

Julius Malema, the expelled ANC Youth League leader who has capitalised on the massacre, was singled out as “a wealthy, essentially right-wing leader”. Cope, the African People’s Convention and the DA were also mentioned.

Vavi said Malema should have raised issues with Cosatu so they could be fixed – after all, it did not hide its weaknesses – but instead he had told workers they must form splinter unions. This, Vavi said, would “destroy any shield workers have”, and leave them “naked”.

“What type of a revolutionary is that? When he tells workers to split… to fragment their voice?” Vavi said .

Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini weighed in: “Julius must stop what he is doing. It is not helping him and it is not helping anybody.”

The underlying cause of the Marikana killings, Cosatu says, is “super-exploitation” by mines and stark inequality. Citing former Lonmin chief financial officer Alan Ferguson’s R854 581 monthly income, Cosatu said this was 152 times the income of a rock driller.

Next week Cosatu will circulate an open letter to its members on events at Marikana. But of immediate concern was police brutality.

“We want to see no guns, including those firing rubber bullets. We want to see riot shields. We want to see water cannons and teargas, and not R5 automatic rifles,” Vavi said.

Cosatu’s briefing on the Marikana killings took place as Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant met both unions – NUM and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) – to discuss violence and intimidation. Yesterday’s meeting followed one on Thursday, described as “cordial”, when Oliphant and her top officials met Amcu and its mother body, the labour federation Nactu. These were the latest in a series of talks this week, including the SA Council of Churches-brokered meeting between Lonmin management and the trade unions.

Meanwhile, there are moves to deal with some of the underlying issues that triggered the rock drillers’ demand for a R12 500 monthly wage. Among them are proposals for the establishment of a national mining bargaining chamber with separate chambers representing, for example, the platinum, coal and gold sectors.

This would standardise negotiations over wages and employment conditions across a particular industry, rather than at individual mines. NUM has broadly welcomed this move.

In addition, NUM general secretary Frans Baleni said yesterday the union was taking up the rock drillers’ cause. The union has tabled proposals before the Chamber of Mines to change mines’ current pay grading system, based on levels of authority, to one which centres on skills and the toughness and conditions of the job. This would benefit rock drillers, who do the most back-breaking work underground.

Meanwhile, Lonmin has appointed chief financial officer Simon Scott as acting chief executive officer. CEO Ian Farmer, who took ill amid the tensions leading up to last Thursday’s shooting, had “commenced a course of treatment, and it will be some months before he is able to return to work full-time”, according to a company statement released yesterday.

Weekend Argus