Mine killings lay bare violent inter-union rivalry

2012-08-25 21:00
Workers of Lonmin's Marikana mine. Picture: Leon Sadiki, City Press

Workers of Lonmin's Marikana mine. Picture: Leon Sadiki, City Press

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Johannesburg - The deadly protests last week at Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana have laid bare a fierce and violent battle for domination among trade unions.

The killing of 44 people during an illegalt strike at the Marikana mine highlighted the depth of internal politics between the main and three-decades old National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the 11-year-old Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

The NUM has come under fire from workers accusing it of being alienated from day-to-day shop floor issues and having too cosy a relationship with management.

Boasting a membership of 300 000, NUM is the largest single affiliate of the 2.2 million-strong umbrella union Cosatu.

'Working class aristocracy'

Hamadziripi Tamukamoyo, a researcher with the Institute of Security Studies said: "Some have argued that Cosatu ...have largely come to represent a 'working class aristocracy' and are too involved in ANC elite politics to adequately work in the interest of the poor."

Some disgruntled NUM activists broke away to form a splinter independent union, Amcu in a bid to close the gap.

But it is only in recent months that Amcu appeared to have consolidated its position. It quickly gained ground early this year after a six-week violent strike at Impala Platinum mine, the world's second largest, sitting on the same platinum belt as Lonmin.

About 17 000 workers were sacked during the strike but then re-instated, after which Amcu said it had stripped most of the NUM membership to claim more than 50% on the register and demanded recognition.

For a union to be recognised by law for collective bargaining purposes, it has to attain a membership of more than 50% of the workforce.

Violence and intimidation have become a culture to coerce workers to take part in strikes or join unions.

'Violence becomes a tool'

Unions survive on workers' subscriptions, often calculated as a percentage of their salaries.

The two unions denied being behind the deadly protests at Lonimn mine. ISS also said the strike was started by non-unionised labour.

But the Amcu leader Joseph Mathunjwa, accompanied by a group of praise singers, stormed into a memorial service organised for the victims of the Lonmin killings on Thursday and was given a platform to address mourners.

Some of the songs sung during the violent protests staged on a hill in Marikana town, were anti NUM.

"It's very difficult to build a very strong worker solidarity... so you use violence to bring them together. Violence becomes a tool to achieve worker solidarity," said Crispen Chinguno, an industrial relations researcher at the University of Witwatersrand.

The violence can be linked to the post-apartheid social order, which Chinguno said bred strong trade unions, that are "covertly hostile to competition".

Workers, many of them unskilled, have openly changed allegiance to Amcu.

"I stopped being a member of the NUM because ...every day, when we're in the strikes like this, they just told us 'go back to work' without any reason, without any answer that can satisfy us," said Joseph Motingwe, who defected to Amcu three years ago.

Belief in muti was partly blamed for the workers' defiance during a standoff with police before 34 of them were gunned down.

Media reported that a video shot by the police from a helicopter during the strike, showed naked men lining up to be rubbed with herbs that were believed would make them bullet-proof.

"The use of muti has become so institutionalised in everything they [unions] do," said Chinguno.

He said some of the 17 000 workers sacked and later reinstated at Impala believed they regained their jobs thanks to muti.
Read more on:    cosatu  |  amcu  |  num  |  mining unrest
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
17 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Food
 

Watch: Insane road bike skills!

This will have you sitting on the edge of your chair.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

The most extreme journey ever?
Red Bull Lionheart trail run - not for the fainthearted!
Adventure holidays for your bucket list
Top 10 water sports to try before you die

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Deal of the week!

Save R1200 on the Samsung 48” smart full HD LED television now only R8799. Buy now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

Save 20% on Nivea beauty products!

Buy any two Nivea beauty products and save 20%. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is a tendency to focus too intently on outer appearance and beauty which hides who you really are. You are being challenged...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.