NUM still a worthy labour union

2013-02-17 10:00

Journalists should get their facts straight before making assumptions, writes Lesiba Seshoka

The opinion piece written by Andre Janse Van Vuuren in City Press last week defies logic and is based on flawed premises.

Having met the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) general secretary at the Mining Indaba and hearing he was at a rally in Rustenburg last year, the writer wrongly concludes Frans Baleni is more comfortable in the company of business than with union members. He argues it is the umpteenth example of the NUM and Baleni’s comfort with big business.

However, the NUM, which is accused of being out of touch with its members, and Baleni in particular, have been at the forefront of many marches organised in the platinum belt when the writer and his colleagues chose to report from the comfort of their newsrooms.

Janse Van Vuuren wrongly argues that Zwelinzima Vavi, Blade Nzimande and Baleni addressed an almost empty stadium in Rustenburg, when the stadium was almost full and the NUM general secretary did not even address the crowd.

Baleni and the leadership collective have criss-crossed the country and continue to do so, meeting members, while the writer seemingly spends his time Googling stories on his computer and fantasising about the demise of the union.

The NUM remains a strong force in the mining industry in spite of the challenges it faced in the platinum sector. Many members at Lonmin and Impala continue to return to the NUM. Many never chose to belong to another union, as the writer wrongfully insinuates.

Instead, Impala had closed the NUM offices at its mine and it barred people from belonging to the NUM, while membership forms were filled in, without our members’ consent, to favour our rivals. It is based on these incidents that both Impala and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union rejected the idea of an independent verification process, which they had earlier agreed to.

Janse van Vuuren and his ilk blame the union’s challenges on lack of leadership. In City Press, Hartford (October 27 2012) and De Lange (August 19 2012) make the same point. The latter argued that problems in the platinum belt are attributable to lack of leadership since the departure of Archie Palane and the union’s use of junior officials.

The former lamented Ramaphosa’s departure. The reality is the NUM is contested terrain. This was nowhere more evident than at its congress last year, when service providers and companies worked hard to replace the current leadership.

Having failed to do so, together with many liberals in the media industry, they have decided on propaganda mischief to portray the leaders of the union as lacking leadership.

The collusion between industry and the propagandist is as clear as daylight. It is problematic for journalism when its members are entertained by business with free lunches and free air tickets.

There is no free lunch in business. Instead of accusing the NUM and its leadership of being comfortable with business, it is we who should argue that the close relationship between journalists and business is problematic in many ways, especially when it relates to kickbacks branded as gifts.

It is we who should argue that reporting an event you have not attended is unacceptable. It should not be our problem the writer chose to attend the Mining Indaba and not our rallies. His absence should not be translated into our absence, and we should not be blamed for not attending to our members based on the evidence of Google searches.

»?Seshoka is NUM spokesperson

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