Suspicions of underhand deals behind mine strike

2014-05-16 00:00

A 22% pay increase to Marikana miners agreed by Lonmin in September 2012 was never paid, and that is one of the reasons for the determination of miners on the platinum belt to continue their 16-week strike.

The non-payment claim was made by the faith-based Bench Marks Foundation that has monitored socio-economic conditions in the mining areas for several years.

Bench Marks researcher David van Wyk said, “We wrote to Lonmin in December, 2012 and then again in January and February last year to ask why the agreed increase had not been paid.” No reply was received.

According to miners in the area, an agreed R2 000 “sweetener” to return to work after the Marikana massacre was also subsequently deducted from the pay packets of those who returned to work.

Confirmation of this is not available and questions to the company about the claimed deduction and the non-payment of the agreed increase have not yet been responded to.

“But the fact that the agreed increase was not paid should be enough to understand why there is so much anger,” says Bench Mark chief executive and former trade unionist, John Capel.

“What we are dealing with here is not a normal strike. You have to understand that this all stems from the killings at Marikana; that workers died in the cause of a demand not just for pay, but for human dignity,” he adds.

The strike has brought to the fore a number of allegations and concerns about the way in which the mining industry, government and the police have been co-operating.

It is what one lawyer at the Farlam commission into the massacre has referred to as a “toxic collusion”.

Finnish economist Dick Forslund, working for the Cape Town-based Alternative Information and Development Centre, has also produced reports that indicate that the mining companies may have been under-invoicing sales of minerals to possible subsidiaries abroad.

This would mean that major profits would not accrue in South Africa, avoiding local taxes and strengthening the argument that companies cannot afford higher wages.

Adding to suspicions of underhand deals is the fact that most mining companies have many overseas subsidiaries, often in established tax havens such as the Cayman Islands.

Even African Rainbow Minerals, Patrice Motsepe’s proudly South African venture, is reported to have seven subsidiary companies registered in Barbados.

* Terry Bell is a political, economic and labour analyst.

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