Unions flex muscles at Marikana hearing

2012-11-28 17:45
The colourful green and red T-shirts of members of rival unions NUM and Amcu in the auditorium of the Rustenburg Civic Centre during proceedings of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry. Picture: (Lucas Ledwaba, City Press)

The colourful green and red T-shirts of members of rival unions NUM and Amcu in the auditorium of the Rustenburg Civic Centre during proceedings of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry. Picture: (Lucas Ledwaba, City Press)

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Rustenburg - Competing unions brought multitudes of supporters to the Farlam Commission on Wednesday, when the president of Amcu gave evidence relating to the Marikana violence.

Activists in the red regalia associated with the Congress of SA Trade Unions and its affiliate, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), outnumbered those affiliated with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) in the public gallery.

NUM general secretary Frans Baleni attended Wednesday's proceedings.

Wearing sunglasses, he rose and waved at supporters, who stood up and waved back.

Family members of the dead mineworkers, mainly women, wore the green T-shirts associated with Amcu.

Wednesday was Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa's second consecutive day in the witness stand.

He was led in giving evidence by advocate Timothy Bruinders SC.

Mathunjwa said that when he finished addressing protesters gathered on a hill near Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana, he was "very positive" the strike would end the following day.

The workers had instructed him to talk to Lonmin management and return to the hill on the morning of 16 August.

Several representatives of the protesters said they did not want to see the NUM and wanted to negotiate only through Amcu.

Mathunjwa said after briefing North West deputy provincial police commissioner Lieutenant General William Mpembe, the senior policeman saluted union members.

"We were all positive the strike would end the following day," he said.

Not true

On 16 August, Mathunjwa said he was late for the meeting with Lonmin which had been scheduled for 08:00. He had to drive from Mpumalanga, he told the commission.

"When I arrived at the venue there was a large presence of NUM supporters wearing T-shirts. I was told there was a [SA Police Service] SAPS media briefing.

"I asked [Jomo] Kwadi [a Lonmin executive] what NUM was doing there if it was a police media briefing. I asked why was Amcu not invited and Nkwadi said it was a briefing of the SAPS," said Mathunjwa.

He said Kwadi told him to wait as Lonmin's bosses were still negotiating about the way forward with regard to the strike.

Bruinders said there were allegations that while waiting for Kwadi, Mathunjwa approached another Lonmin executive to ask for a seat at the bargaining table in return for ending the strike.

"That is not true," said Mathunjwa.

He told the commission that when Kwadi arrived, he said he did not have good news and that Lonmin management had resolved not to honour a commitment made during its meeting on 15 August.

"He [Kwadi] was referring to the commitment made by management that once workers leave violence and return to work, the management would resolve their issues," said Mathunjwa.

"I was agitated. They were reneging on their commitment. I had already communicated that [commitment] to the workers. I felt we were betrayed as a union," he said.

Later, the Lonmin executives brought a cellphone to Mathunjwa.

"The person on the phone did not introduce herself. She was just rude and her voice was harsh. That person was North West provincial commissioner Lieutenant General Zukiswa Mbombo," said Mathunjwa.

"She kept saying I had made a commitment to return to the koppie [hill] by 09:00. I told her I had been delayed by the Lonmin management who had somersaulted from their commitment.

"She said she doesn't care," he said.

The Amcu team then headed to the joint operation committee, where it met Mbombo, who was taking over the operation.

"She said we were late, the sun was hot and the matter had to be finished that day. I explained the reasons for us being late and she said she wasn't interested," said Mathunjwa.

"She repeatedly said that our reasons were not her business," he said.

The hearing continues.

Read more on:    lonmin  |  cosatu  |  amcu  |  num  |  ian farlam  |  frans baleni  |  joseph mathunjwa  |  mahikeng  |  mining unrest  |  marikana inquiry

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