Entrepreneur unionists rise

2013-01-20 10:00

It’s only January – and not even all of it – and South Africa is already in the grip of a strike wave.

Workers on the mines, below the land and above it on the farms have again turned militant this week.

It has been a week marked by platinum rage and a run on the vineyards.

Workers at Medupi, the new power station, are out too and as we went to print, the national airline, as well as the rail network, were threatened by industrial action.

The announcement by Amplats that it would mothball four shafts and possibly retrench 16 000 workers has the government enraged.

Amplats stand to have its licence stripped,but this goes beyond the numbers.

Multiply by three to get the dependency ratio and understand the impact on at least 50 000 lives.

That’s not even calculating the impact on downstream industries. Mines are much more than a hole in the ground.

But platinum is in trouble. There is too much of it.

The recycled product is available in amounts larger than that being mined. What is remarkable about this strike wave is that it is happening outside of the Cosatu remit.

It’s being led by entrepreneur unions and unionists who share none of Cosatu’s political allegiances.

The mines are in the thrall of Joseph Mathunjwa’s Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, the farm protests are led by pig farmer and entrepreneur Nosey Pieterse, while the SAA strike is about the recognition of yet another militant newcomer union called the National Transport Movement.

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