Amplats strike 'matter of life or death'

2012-10-06 14:50
Striking Amplats mineworkers. (Lucky Nxumalo, City Press

Striking Amplats mineworkers. (Lucky Nxumalo, City Press

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Johannesburg - The wildcat strike by 12 000 workers at Anglo American Platinum's (Amplats) Rustenburg mine could turn violent after their dismissal this week, the National Union of Mineworkers said on Saturday.

"It is likely to happen now; the strike will get more violent," said Num spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka.

He said workers were gathering on Saturday at Bleskop stadium to discuss the way forward after they received dismissal notices on Friday. "You can see the anger. This is going to take a new dimension."

Seshoka said that while the company was in its "legal rights" to issue the dismissal notices, as the strike was illegal, it was not a constructive move.

"It's like you can't extinguish a fire with petrol. You have to act in a manner that promotes dialogue."

Genuine demands

Seshoka said, although their workers were in the wrong by embarking on an illegal strike, "their demands are genuine".

He said the best avenue for negotiations was for the platinum bosses and unions to meet at the Chamber of Mines; as was going to happen on Monday.

Wildcat strikes have raged at Anglo Platinum's Rustenburg mines for three weeks. The company decided to dismiss the workers after disciplinary hearings - which the strikers chose not to attend - were completed.

This Wednesday, workers will have the right to appeal the dismissal.

Seshoka said that Num had not yet made a decision on whether to appeal on its members' behalf, as it first wanted to see what the outcome of Monday's Chamber of mines meeting would be.

Meanwhile, an independent organiser for the mine strikes, Mamatlwe Sebei echoed Seshoka's concerns.

"This strike is a matter of life and death. These [dismissals] unfortunately will only escalate violence."

The workers would not appeal the dismissals, Sebei added.

"They [management] are going to have to reinstate the workers... Amplats is not going to operate without its workers."

He said while the possible violence would be "unacceptable", at the moment the miners felt that their dismissals were "like saying to someone who is about to have his head cut off that you must move your hair".

Sebei said he was from a democratic socialist movement which was helping the Amplats miners, who had lost faith in the unions, to organise their strike action.

Hardened resolve

He said, miners had "hardened their resolve to guarantee" that all Anglo Platinum shafts would be on strike by next week.

"We are going to make sure that we bring the whole of Anglo Platinum to its knees."

Sebei said the only solution to the strike was "constructive discussion" around the miners' "simple, modest and legitimate" demand for a minimum wage for everyone of R12 500.

He said in the long term the miners wanted to see the mines nationalised.

"These mines are the property of the people... The companies are just parasites that will never contribute to the development of this country."

Sebei said that since the end of apartheid, living conditions "for the better part, have only got worse... Since the end of apartheid you only see more and more shacks and squatter camps around the mines."

He said, consequently, the miners' stand that they would rather die than stop striking was "not an empty threat".

"Conditions are so unbearable; it doesn't really make a different," said Sebei.

"It's better to die today, fighting with honour, as a soldier dying on the battlefield, than to live in this poverty and suffering as a coward."

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Read more on:    amplats  |  num  |  mahikeng  |  strikes  |  mining unrest

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