A presidential handshake

2013-02-10 10:00

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Amcu leader was heard mentioning Jesus Christ’s mercy as he and Zokwana chatted jovially.

They shook hands and exchanged warm greetings.

Even a stranger watching their brief exchange in the public gallery of the Rustenburg Civic Centre would have thought they were long lost brothers or comrades.

But National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) president Senzeni Zokwana and Joseph Mathunjwa, head of the Association of Mining and Construction Union (Amcu), lead federations which the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.

has heard have a “toxic” relationship, one which played a huge role in the deaths of 44 people.

The commission is probing the killing of those who died during an illegal strike involving members of the two unions at platinum mine Lonmin’s Marikana operations on August 16 last year.

During a tea adjournment at the hearings on Wednesday, the two union bosses engaged in a show of public affection.

“Aaah! Mr Mathunjwaaa!” Zokwana exclaimed, holding out his hand as he walked up a flight of stairs in the aisle to where Mathunjwa was standing.

Mathunjwa walked quickly to meet him halfway. The two exchanged a warm handshake and greetings.

The Amcu president was heard mentioning the mercy of Jesus Christ as they chatted jovially during the short exchange.

The chat, however, contrasts starkly with the picture of hostility, enmity and deep resentment painted in evidence led before the commission.

Zokwana and Mathunjwa’s civil exchange was also the opposite of how members of the two unions relate to one another at the commission.

Since proceedings began last October, there has been notable hostility between their respective members who come kitted out in their federations’ colours – the bright red of NUM and Amcu’s green, with black berets.

They sit apart, in separate sections.

Unlike their leaders, they hardly mix during breaks and obey an apparent unwritten rule not to exchange smiles.

The extent of the hostility is illustrated by the curse of a member of one union when he saw members of the other affiliation come into the auditorium one morning.

“Nazi ezi zinja! (Here come these dogs!)” he blurted out in isiXhosa.

Last year, retired Judge Ian Farlam, the commission chairperson, called for the two parties to behave after NUM lodged a complaint that Amcu members were singing songs calling for the killing of the union in the parking lot.

This week, Mathunjwa, who sat among his members, could not have known what was to follow when proceedings resumed after their chat.

Zokwana appeared to have forgotten their brief, civil exchange, launching veiled attacks at Amcu.

Some of his responses drew murmurs from the public gallery, leading Farlam to issue cautions on occasion.

Zokwana, who has been on the stand since last week Thursday, has used his time to portray NUM as a helpless victim of unprovoked attacks, killings and intimidation.

He also blamed Amcu for organising a march which was identified as a source of the escalation of violence during the strike in which 10 people, including two security guards and two policemen, were killed in the four days leading up to the SA Police Service members’ shooting of 34 protesting mine workers.

“It is the norm for Amcu to beat up anyone who disagrees with them,” Zokwana said during cross examination by Advocate Dali Mpofu.

Zokwana said the Lonmin mine strike “smacks of Amcu footprints as happened at Impala (Platinum)”.

By this, he was pointing out that during the unprotected strike by rock drill operators at Implats last February, NUM shop stewards were intimidated, the union’s offices damaged and some union members killed.

He said he wondered why, after the strike, Amcu suddenly went on a recruitment drive.

Zokwana said the Impala strike was led by a group calling itself Five Madoda, who suddenly thereafter emerged as Amcu leaders.

“We are not a union that believes it can add numbers by embarking on violence,” he said, adding that similar tactics were used in the Lonmin strike.

“People did not just wake up and start to sing anti-NUM songs. Workers do not dream about those things. They are guided.”

When asked why he did not meet with NUM members who were part of a large group of striking workers gathered on the koppie where the shooting took place, Zokwana said going there would have been asking to be killed.

“Those who were lying had access to the workers,” said Zokwana in a veiled reference to Mathunjwa.

During the strike, the mine workers were hostile to NUM, heckling Zokwana when he tried to address them while giving Mathunjwa a thunderous welcome.

Zokwana denied Mpofu’s statement that he did not regard Amcu as an enemy or rival, but rather as a competitor in the mining industry.

“We will not regard Amcu as an enemy. It is the methods that have been used that we are against,” he said.

Zokwana grudgingly withdrew a statement in which he associated Amcu with the killing of two Lonmin security guards when asked to do so by the union’s advocate, Heidi Barnes.

“When the commission is over, the truth will come out as to who organised those marches,” he said.

The advocate and unionist show

Senzeni Zokwana is not a yes or no man.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) president likes to engage and explain using metaphors, and doesn’t seem to care if it takes him half an hour to do so.

Zokwana spent the best part of this week undergoing cross-examination before the Marikana Commission of Inquiry which is probing the circumstances which led to the deaths of 44 people.

The NUM president seemed to have met his match in the long-windedness stakes in Advocate Dali Mpofu (SC), who became the subject of irritation from commission chairperson, retired Judge Ian Farlam, and

other legal counsels, notably Schalk Burger (SC) who represents Lonmin.

In answering questions that required a straight yes or no, Zokwana instead resorted to using examples such as drinking Hansa and Black Label, quoted from the scriptures and from Adolf Hitler’s propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.

He even took the time to offer Mpofu some English lessons, advising him that pigs do not have children but piglets.

And it didn’t end there.

The prosecutor also came in for some isiXhosa lessons from Zokwana, after Mpofu had said the union president uyaxoka (is lying).

A man seated in the public gallery, wearing a red T-shirt emblazoned with the emblem of the NUM, seemed impressed by Zokwana’s showing, constantly accompanying his answers with an approving nod and a whisper of “yinkunzi le!” (Ah, that’s the great guy!)

And when his emotions ran high during his sparring match with Mpofu, his stutter echoed through the auditorium, much to the amusement of people in the public gallery.

This added to Farlam’s workload, who had a torrid week reprimanding Mpofu for “wasting the commission’s time by asking irrelevant questions”, helping Zokwana to answer questions in a simple, direct manner and cautioning members of the public to refrain from making comments and to switch off their cellphones.

Ironically, Farlam’s own cellphone rang on resumption of proceedings after a tea break.

The retired judge, who packs a mean sense of humour, used the moment to issue a reminder on switching off cellphones, saying he was immediately switching his off to lead by example.

At one stage, when Mpofu asked Zokwana a question relating to a 1949 strike, Farlam intervened.

“Mr Mpofu, the commission can’t sit here until the next century. Our terms of reference are not to investigate 150 years of violent strikes,” Farlam said.

He also displayed his knowledge of the Bible when he corrected Zokwana who had wrongly referred to an elephant instead of a camel when quoting from the scriptures.

These were just some of the goings-on in another week at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry.

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