‘Union leader’s inflammatory language caused Marikana tragedy’

2012-11-30 17:01

The Marikana Commission of Inquiry has heard that the tragedy of August 16 could have been avoided if a union leader had not used inflammatory language during his address to striking workers earlier that day.

This was put to Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa during cross-examination by Lonmin lawyer Schalk Burger SC.

Burger said Mathunjwa, whose union did not have bargaining rights at Lonmin, had become involved in efforts to end the strike to try and position Amcu to negotiate the R12 500 wage demand by workers.

The commission has seen video clips of Mathunjwa addressing the workers on August 16, saying the economy of the country was still in white hands and that the employers were growing rich on the labour of workers who were not paid well.

Another Amcu official, Dumisani Nkalithsana, was seen in one of the videos, leading the strikers in a song calling for the “killing” of the National Union of Mineworkers, which he described as an oppressive union.

Said Burger: “A responsible trade union leader should not have swept up emotions on the morning of 16 August.”

Mathunjwa denied that his speech was inflammatory, saying speaking about oppression was not inflammatory.

“The environment was not like this hall, no air conditioning, the atmosphere was very different. Whatever I was doing was my utmost best to end the strike and see that people return back to work. If there’s anyone else who’s dedicated his life like me (in trying to resolve the strike), then I would say I have failed. I did everything that I could,” Mathunjwa said.

Mathunjwa said his involvement was not an opportunistic way of gaining support because he had been invited by Lonmin to address the striking workers.

Mathunjwa said he had become involved in the matter, even though Amcu was not involved in organising the strike.

Burger said Mathunjwa was “playing a game of frightening odds,” and that he was playing with the lives of the strikers, because he had said he had told Lonmin management he would negotiate with the workers to disperse on condition that Amcu was given a place in the wage negotiations.

But Mathunjwa denied this.

The inquiry continues on Monday.

- City Press

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