Living in terror

2017-11-05 06:00
Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa addresses a mass meeting in Marikana, North West, on October 18 2017. Picture: Tebogo Letsie

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa addresses a mass meeting in Marikana, North West, on October 18 2017. Picture: Tebogo Letsie

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Two former Amcu members claim the union is running a well-managed project to kill rivals and rule the North West platinum belt.

Deep in the rural Eastern Cape, Litha Gamede* moves around clad in a brown military jacket, its hood hanging over sunglasses-covered eyes. He reveals very little of his clean-shaven face.

The former Lonmin mine worker is hoping not to be seen by those he believes are out to kill him.

“I can only try, but the project to silence us is well financed and they can still find me here at home. I can be hit any time. I live in fear and am looking over my shoulder every now and then,” he said.

Gamede is one of at least eight former members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) who have fled Marikana, North West, amid killings sparked by union strife on the platinum belt.

His name, he insists, appears on a hit list.

“I know I am a target. Two of my friends have died this year and there have been at least two attempts on my life while I was still living in Marikana,” Gamede said.

Why would anyone want to kill him?

“I know too much. If I can open my mouth the information that will flow out of it would reveal the real Amcu and how people have died from 2012 until now,” he said.

“A lot has been said about those [34 striking Lonmin miners] police killed on August 16 2012, but many others have been killed by fellow mineworkers in a project aimed at catapulting Amcu to majority union status at the expense of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM),” he alleged.

“If anyone can assure my safety, then I would open up and tell a tale of a well-managed project which assured that Amcu became the majority union. This includes the spilling of blood through which most workers had no choice but to join the union for their own safety. They want to silence people like us who know a lot that can taint Amcu’s image.”

Terrified

City Press travelled to the Eastern Cape last week to meet two miners who fled Marikana for their lives. The men, who both participated in the deadly wildcat strike in Marikana in 2012, were too terrified to be named or photographed, or to have the locations of their new homes revealed.

During two clandestine interviews, at a guest house and in the car on the side of a busy road, both told tales of a hit list containing names of Amcu members who asked inconvenient questions of the union’s leadership. Both said they had information about the other murders that could lead to the arrests of those involved.

But despite the fact that North West police had established a task team to investigate the killings – six murders so far – neither of the men said detectives had approached or called them for more information.

Another former Lonmin miner and ex-Amcu branch executive committee member Mkhokheli Jali*, said he felt safer at home, but not entirely. He fled Marikana in the middle of the night about two months ago, quitting his job at Lonmin in fear for his life.

“Just like regional organiser Mawethu Steven who was shot dead in 2013, my name ended up on the hit list because I asked difficult questions. Steven got killed for pushing for Amcu to hold its national conference, where he was the preferred candidate for the deputy president position,” Jali said.

“He is the man who literally brought Amcu to Lonmin and popularised it across the platinum belt after leaving the NUM, but he never lived to see it.

“I have never put my hand on an Amcu constitution or laid my eyes on such a document. Members are always told about the constitution,” he alleged.

After being sent a list of questions this week, Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa instead issued a public statement in which he attacked City Press. He denied all the allegations and insisted his union was not involved in the killings.

He said Amcu would not murder people and then hire private investigator, Paul O’Sullivan, to probe these crimes. In addition, he said Amcu had put up a R100 000 reward for any information that could lead to the arrest of the perpetrators.

Meanwhile, an NUM member, Nkosinathi Mantashe, was recently arrested on charges of attempted murder for allegedly shooting Amcu branch chairperson Malibongwe Mdazo in July.

Both the NUM and Amcu have distanced themselves from the murders.

Mathunjwa accused police of being “tardy in investigating the killings” despite Amcu having provided “credible evidence”. He said security forces were subverting the investigation.

NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said his union “will never kill any mineworker to regain ground on the platinum belt”. He said the NUM had fought tribalism and managed to unite workers across tribal lines.

“So it is indeed mischievous for anyone now to start associating this mighty union with any sort of killings or violent acts.”

*Not their real names

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Read more on:    joseph mathunjwa  |  lonmin  |  amcu  |  num  |  mining

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