Marikana wage talks impossible: NUM

By Drum Digital
31 January 2013

Wage talks between striking mineworkers at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) had been impossible, the Farlam commission of inquiry heard on Thursday.

"You can only get a mandate from people who have trust in you," NUM president Senzeni Zokwana told the hearing at the Rustenburg civic centre.

He said the striking workers had not trusted the union and were violent.

"There was no way NUM could get such a mandate."

Karel Tip, for the NUM, asked Zokwana how important a mandate was in wage negotiations.

"Before a union can engage an employer in any form of negotiation you need a mandate," he said.

Zokwana felt it had been impossible to get one at Lonmin because the strikers were too aggressive and had not been willing to talk to shop stewards.

Tip asked him to explain workers' wages and benefits.

Zokwana said the union had tried to close the wage gap in the mining industry.

"We have been able to make some strides [so] that mineworkers make a decent wage," he said, adding that mineworkers had not had paid leave or pensions before 1987.

"NUM gave dignity to mineworkers."

Tip said he would ask Zokwana about the NUM's policies, and would deal with allegations that the NUM was not a caring union. He would also ask him about the rock drill operators and what the union had done for them.

Zokwana would also be asked about what had happened at Lonmin's Marikana mine while he was there.

The auditorium was filled on Thursday with NUM and Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union members, wearing their union T-shirts.

The commission is probing the deaths of 44 people at Lonmin's Marikana mine in August 2012.

On August 16, 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 were wounded when police opened fire while trying to disperse a group gathered on a hill near the mine. In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were hacked to death.

-by Sapa

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