NUM is too valuable to go down the river – Ramaphosa

2015-06-04 18:17
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. (GCIS)

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Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged members of the National Union of Mineworkers to protect the legacy of the union and ensure that it stays intact.

“The NUM is far too valuable to see it just go down the river as a weakened union. We must go back to where we were in 1987,” Ramaphosa said.

There were reports this week that the union had lost about 100 000 members in the past three years.

A founding general secretary of the NUM, Ramaphosa painted the picture of a flourishing mining union in contrast to the current one which has, in recent years, lost large numbers of members to a smaller union.

Ramaphosa said the NUM of his time was close to its membership on the ground and had a disciplined membership.

He said at one point the NUM was the “fastest growing union in the world” and added that at the time “people were given positions to work and not fill their pockets with money”.

Ramaphosa said that listening to the people was one of the ingredients for going “back to basics”. This was the theme of the 15th national congress of the NUM, which Ramaphosa addressed in Boksburg earlier today.

He also urged NUM to learn from President Jacob Zuma, who “listens to the people”.

“Our president pays attention and listens to the people [because] that is what our people want … [they] want us to listen to them and that is where we must get rid of arrogance even if you have to go on your knees, go on your knees and listen to the people because the people are always right,” Ramaphosa said.

The man who once sat on the board of the world’s third-largest platinum producer, Lonmin, in which his company had business interests, also spoke about transformation in the mining sector.

“The mining charter was developed as a tool to transform the mining sector. In its review and implementation of the charter, the government found that progress has been made in some areas but much more still needs to be done,” he said.

“The diversification of management and co-skilled workers has been limited [and] white men continue to dominate top management and technical positions to this end. Transformation at management level and technical level still has not moved and this is a major challenge that the industry faces.”

He also addressed the transformation of the living conditions of mine workers.

“While many hostels have been converted into living quarters, this is far from completed and the living conditions of mining workers still need to be properly transformed. It happens in other countries, why can’t it happen here in South Africa? It is a question we need to ask ourselves,” Ramaphosa said.

Meanwhile, Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi has urged, as the mining sector goes into wage negotiations, management to be transparent in order to avoid another Marikana.

“When that happens, it allows for a much more responsible negotiation platform so unions can come to informed and evidence-based conclusions in terms of the kitty. We’re obviously urging unions as well that as they negotiate and push workers’ rights they should also take into account the need for job retentions,” Ramatlhodi said.

“That balanced approach on both sides is what I am advocating for. We don’t want the recurrence of the situation that happened in the past years … we don’t want that of our people in the mines as a result of violence that can be avoided.”

Ramatlhodi was referring to the Marikana tragedy, where 34 miners were killed by the police and striking workers were accused of killing nonstriking colleagues, police and mine security officials during a violent wage strike in 2012.
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