Branch chairpersons lured to conspirators’ meeting under false pretences
A rebellion within the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) was being stoked during the Christmas break by a small group of activists with money to throw around who took mine workers from their homes in the Eastern Cape to a conspirators’ meeting in Boksburg.
City Press has learnt that the group lured seven branch chairpersons from their Mthatha and Lusikisiki family homes to Johannesburg under the pretence that they had to attend a meeting with Amcu’s president, Joseph Mathunjwa.
When they got there, however, the branch chairs were told that the meeting was being held to establish an alternative union for platinum mine workers. They were told the breakaway union was being formed because Mathunjwa was dominating Amcu and had made no information available about its financial affairs.
The leaders of the group were Thebe Maswai, chair of Amcu’s branch at Anglo American Platinum’s Thembalani shaft outside Rustenburg, and Lovers Mkhwa, a shop steward at the same shaft.
Maswai and Mkhwa called up the shop stewards in the Eastern Cape between Christmas and New Year.
One of them was Zandisile Mlindi (36), chairperson of Amcu’s branch at the company’s Swartklip shaft close to Northam. He told City Press how he was lured to Johannesburg.
“Thebe called me on December 29. I was at home in Mthatha, but he said I must get on a flight the next day to attend a meeting with Mathunjwa in Johannesburg.
“Lovers and I would have flown together to OR Tambo,” says Mlindi.
The two missed their flight and instead opted to drive to Johannesburg in Mkhwa’s car, a BMW X1. They got there after dark and went to the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg where they met Maswai and five other officials from different Amcu branches across the platinum belt. Among them were George Tyobeka, Amcu chair at Amplats’ Batho Pele shaft, who drove his own luxury vehicle, a new Chevrolet Trailblazer, up from Mthatha.
Others included Gaddafi Mdoda, Amcu chair at Khomanani shaft; Panyama Alfred, a regional organiser; Lendani Mabanang, a branch secretary; and Titus Selabatse, another branch secretary.
Maswai paid for everyone’s rooms at the hotel. At Friday’s negotiations at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration to end the current platinum strike another Amcu branch chair, Makhanya Sphamanda, told City Press that he had been invited by Mkhwa, but heard “stories” and decided against going.
Several other members of the Amcu delegation recall Maswai talking about creating a new union, the Worker Association of Unions.
“He said he received R4 million for the project of creating a new union. They arranged for a number of follow-up meetings, as some of those present wanted to think about it first and then say how they feel.”
“There would have been a follow-up meeting on January 3 and another for some of the other officials on the 10th,” says Mlindi.
The conspiracy was hardly watertight as at least three people later went to Amcu’s leaders warning about attempts to destabilise the union before the massive strike that kicked off on Thursday.
Some of the regional organisers in Rustenburg wanted Mlindi to tell his story to workers gathered at the Olympia stadium last Sunday, but Mathunjwa vetoed the idea because it would be against protocol.
At the same meeting, though, Mathunjwa accused the organisers, including Maswai, Mdoda and Tyobeka – by name – of conspiring with the ANC to break up Amcu.
Maswai acknowledged to City Press that he organised the meeting and covered the costs, like the hotel bills.
“I got the money from Mathunjwa himself,” he said.
Mathunjwa denied this.