Marikana: Tiff with Mantashe led to breakaway union

2012-12-04 13:29

The Marikana Commission of Inquiry has heard details of how ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe’s alleged refusal to recuse himself from a disciplinary hearing against Joseph Mathunjwa led to the formation of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa told the commission this morning that he was expelled from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in 1999.

Mantashe was the NUM’s secretary general at the time.

He is now ANC secretary general.

Mathunjwa was being cross examined by Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, who is representing the families of the 34 mine workers who were killed when police opened fire on August 16.

Ntsebeza, who was initially representing 21 of the families, told the commission this morning that he now represents all 34.

Referring to an article published by City Press in August, Ntsebeza led evidence that Mathunjwa had been hauled before a disciplinary hearing by the NUM, in September 1999, at Douglas Colliery in Mpumalanga.

The strike by a 3 000 strong workforce which staged a 10 day sit-in underground, was prompted by NUM’s dismissal of Mathunjwa who was then the union’s chairperson of the local regional branch.

The dispute was only terminated once Mathunjwa got reinstated, but he was later dismissed after he refused to appear before the NUM disciplinary hearing on objection of Mantashe’s presence.

Mathunjwa said his constituency decided to terminate their NUM membership after declaring: “An injury to one, is an injury to all.”

These events led to the formation of Amcu.

The commission has heard from Lonmin lawyer Schalk Burger, that the “toxic relationship” between the NUM and Amcu was responsible for events of August 16.

The relationship between the two unions has been the subject of much scrutiny since the commission commenced on October 1.

Ntsebeza asked Mathunjwa if the relationship between the two union was based on competition on ideas, or if it was one in which they sometimes engaged recklessly without taking into consideration the consequences.

Mathunjwa said the NUM was competition, not a rival or in a bad way.

Ntsebeza said 17 of the mine workers who died on August 16 were Amcu members, while 10 of them were affiliated to NUM and seven were not unionised.

Ntsebeza, said he was aware of insinuations that Mathunjwa had contributed to the deaths of the 34 by making inflamatory statements and said their families wanted to know how their relatives had met their deaths.

Ntsebeza said his opening statement holds SAPS and Lonmin responsible for the deaths of the 34 mine workers.

Yesterday, Mathunjwa told the commission during cross examination by NUM lawyer Karel Tip, that he had never told the striking Lonmin workers to join Amcu.

This was in response to a question by Tip on whether the Amcu leader had used the strike as a way of recruiting members from NUM to his union.

Mathunjwa, also told the commission he had done his best to end the strike and said he felt aggrieved that it seemed he was now being blamed for the tragedy that unfolded.

The hearing continues.

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