Lonmin: NUM won’t leave, Amcu won’t go

2013-05-14 20:22

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has dug in its heels, vowing not to accede to rival union Amcu’s demands to vacate its offices at the embattled Lonmin mine in Rustenburg.

War-talk between the two unions today raised fears that violence may erupt again, with over 7 000 members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union downing tools in an unprotected strike.

Amcu regional leaders addressed members at a packed Wonderkop Stadium this afternoon where they vowed not to return to work until Lonmin management had recognised them as the majority union and kicked NUM out of its offices.

Mineworkers carried steel rods and sticks as they marched up and down the stadium, chanting anti-NUM slogans and accusing Lonmin and government of taking sides in the bitter battle for control of the platinum belt in Rustenburg.

Amcu regional leaders finally arrived after 4pm to receive a mandate from their members following a meeting between them, Lonmin management and NUM leaders.

Addressing members over a loudspeaker system at the stadium, an Amcu leader said the meeting they had attended “came to naught” as Lonmin management had declined their demand to shut down NUM offices.

“The main issue at the meeting was our demand for the closure of NUM offices. After a meeting that started at 5am, there’s nothing we’re bringing to you. What they (Lonmin) are saying is that they want you to go back to work,” said the leader, to which members reacted angrily with chants of “asiyi” (We’re not going).

The leaders invited six workers from the 13 shafts which have been affected by the wildcat strike to respond to the outcome of the meeting.

All six workers said their colleagues would not return to work “because what management is saying is the same as farting under water – you can’t hear it”.

“If management will only leave by force, we will only go back to work by force,” said another worker, addressing the crowd.

Police kept watch over proceedings from a distance outside the stadium.

When one of the leaders suggested they should disperse and gather again tomorrow morning at the stadium, his suggestion was shot down as workers demanded to gather at the mine shafts to “ensure that the rats (scab labour) do not come out”.

Before they did disperse, Amcu leaders announced that a memorial service for regional chairperson Mawethu Stevens would be held on Thursday. Stevens was shot dead by four men at a tavern in Nkaneng on Saturday while he was watching a soccer match on television.

He was due to give evidence at the commission, which has described his killing as an assassination.

Tensions in the Marikana area were palpable with many workers demanding that police charge those responsible for Stevens’ death.

Meanwhile, NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka slammed Amcu’s demands that they vacate their offices as “nonsensical” and questioned Amcu’s silence about allegations that Stevens had called for Amcu to hold its first elective conference to contest the position of president.

But Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa has rejected the claim, saying the 46-year-old from the Eastern Cape was not an office bearer but merely an official.

Seshoka said only Lonmin could kick NUM out of its offices at the mine.

“Amcu is a union that cannot operate without violence, that is why they are making such nonsensical demands. We will not accede to these demands unless Lonmin kicks us out.”

Kilometres away, at the Civic Centre in Rustenburg, where the hearings of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry continued today, the atmosphere was calm, reports Siyabonga Sithole.

Major General Charl Annandale continued his testimony, which centred around the briefings and debriefings that took place around the time of the shooting of 34 mine workers by police on August 16 last year.

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