Logo: NUM. File picture

Rustenburg - South African mining union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Thursday, distances itself from spate of killings in the North West platinum mines.

This followed an accusation from the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) leader, Joseph Mathunjwa, that the NUM was behind the murders in view of its declining membership at Lonmin Platinum Mine in Marikana near Rustenburg.

In a statement on October 28, Mathunjwa attacked the media and stated that NUM membership was insignificant at Lonmin to such an extent they no longer have organisational rights.

"A reasonable question journalists may have wanted to explore is could the violence and killings be related to the loss of NUM’s organisational rights at Lonmin?" Mathunjwa asked.

During a mass meeting by Amcu at the Wonderkop Stadium on October 18, he mention three media houses, accusing them of publishing stories without Amcu's reply.

Amcu offered a R100 000 reward to track down the killers and hired private investigator Paul O'Sullivan to probe the killings. 

Amcu members killed recently include Tholakele 'Bhele' Dlunga, Mvelisi Biyela, Zingisa Mzendana, Daniel Maseko, and Mpeke Nonyana.

Despite a huge turnout at the mass meeting, the mood was tense, there was less singing, instead members were concerned to know who was around them. They even asked journalists which units they were working in.

NUM said it was quite mischievous for Amcu to start associating it with the current killings taking place in the platinum belt. 

"The NUM views the recent Amcu’s public statement on the killings, mentioning NUM as a direct provocation. The reality is that some of Amcu members who are reported to be in hiding have come out in public, allegedly accusing their own president Joseph Mathunjwa of being behind the killings. They have even challenged him to a public debate," said NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu.

He said the NUM had consistently condemned the killings of mine workers in the Rustenburg area. 

"It does not matter to what union or association they belong to. The killing of mineworkers is deplorable and unacceptable," Mammburu said.

He called for law enforcement agencies to deploy their best resources in Rustenburg to arrest and prosecute the killers.

"The law enforcement agencies must not only arrest the killers, they must also arrest the masterminds who are sponsoring the killings. The NUM will never kill any mine worker to regain ground in the platinum belt. These killings must stop now."

NUM member Nkosinathi Mantashe, 37, accused of the attempted murder of Amcu branch chairperson Malibongwe Mdazo is applying to be released on bail at the Brits Magistrate's Court, while Amcu member William Nyenyane, 29, accused of illegal possession of firearm and ammunition was denied bail at the same court.

Nyenyane is also an accused in the murder of Sabata Petros Chale, he together with 13 others allegedly hacked Chale to death in Marikana on December 8, 2016 and allegedly drank his blood. The group included Forum 4 Service Delivery councillor Napoleon Webster and Nkosindiphile Nziyose, a worker at Shoprite in Marikana, the rest of the remaining 12 are mineworkers associated to Amcu. They are due to appear in the High Court in Mogwase on December 8.

Another 17 Amcu members are due to appear in the High Court in Mogwase next year, they are facing charges of murder, robbery, malicious damage to property and unlawful possession of firearm relating to the August 2012 violent strike  leading to the Marikana Massacre.

Mammburu said the NUM has nothing to gain by killing and shedding blood of mine workers. 

"Workers cannot be enemies, when the NUM was formed 35 years ago, the NUM fought strongly against tribal conflicts and bloodshed. The union fought tribalism and managed to unite workers from across tribal lines. So it is indeed mischievous for anyone now to start associating this mighty union with any sort of killings or violent acts."

In August, Lonmin issued notice to terminate limited organisational rights to unions including NUM, Uasa and Solidarity due to their representation levels which were below the thresholds that are required in the company's current recognition agreement with Amcu.

In terms of the agreement union should have a minimum of 35 percent of the workforce to enjoy limited organisational rights.

The rivalry between Amcu and NUM stems to August 2012 when Amcu dethroned the NUM as the dominant union after the violent strike.

The rivalry had played itself in the Brits Magistrate's Court, Amcu members filled the court to capacity and others protest outside during the appearance of NUM member Nkosinathi Mantashe but, were nowhere to be seen when one of their own William Nyenyane appears.

Police investigating the killings around the platinum mines said 13 dockets have been opened.