Video by Kamogelo Moichela
Johannesburg - ANC chairperson and national executive committee member Gwede Mantashe has acknowledged that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is a shadow of its former self due to dwindling membership over the years.
"I am encouraging NUM (members) to always be on their feet. The union should make input in all policies that seek to benefit all the workers. This used to be the biggest union of the federation and it can still be," he said.
He told the workers to contribute and ensure that their voices are heard.
"No decision can be taken in mining without NUM," he said.
Mantashe, who is also the minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, made the statements while addressing delegates at the union's 17th national Congress in Boksburg.
According to Mantashe, following a debate on moving from coal to renewable energy, he still holds his view around not rushing to shut down coal power plants as this would impact the economy negatively.
He said he had a conversation about mining with President Cyril Ramaphosa on a helicopter trip from Nelspruit to Johannesburg.
He said there was a need to start a conversation on re-purposing some of the power stations in Mpumalanga that are coal-generated.
"There's nothing that stops us from making gas power stations. We can change coal mines to gas stations and because of that many people called me a coal fundamentalist," he said.
"We were told to do away with coal and I asked how we should do away with something that is giving us a turnout of 30 billion a year," he said.
Meanwhile, on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Mantashe said it "pushed the price of gas, coal up and also pushed the demand for coal up."
He said as a result of this, there was more demand for coal from Europe and that the South African government needed to work with its colleagues in the sector and ensure that Transnet takes coal to where it is needed.
Mantashe also used the platform to highlight his views the ongoing Sibanye-Stillwater strike.
NUM and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) embarked on a strike on March 9 over wages as they demanded a salary hike of R1 000 per month over three years.
But Mantashe said the strike is meant to divide mineworkers.
He indicated that when speaking to the CEO of Sibanye-Still waters, he discovered that the aim of the strike was to divide the NUM and AMCU.
"If they can achieve that division between AMCU and NUM, they will be happy but in reality, the division will be costly to NUM in terms of the people," he said.
Mantashe further told the mine workers that they should unite and hold the fort together because without them there would be no union.
"I applaud the NUM president for refusing that division," he said.