NUM members' houses torched in apparent union rivalry

2019-01-08 16:59

Three more houses have been torched in Blybank in Carletonville amid apparent union rivalry near Sibanye-Stillwater gold mine.

The attacks occurred between Sunday night and Monday morning, police spokesperson Warrant Officer Peter Masooa said.

No injuries were reported, but the three houses and a car were burnt.


The remains of a house in Blybank, near Carletonville (Supplied)

He said some other houses were slightly damaged due to their close proximity to the flames and smoke. 

"Some had a petrol bomb thrown in one room," he said.

The attacks bring to 14 the number of houses that have been reported to police as burnt since the strike began in November 2018. Three cars were also reported to have been torched. 

At issue is who hold the union majority at the mine. This determines who has the final say in accepting a pay offer.

Sibanye-Stillwater believes the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the United Association of SA, and Solidarity have more than 50% membership and therefore they have the majority to speak on behalf of workers.

The pay deal the three agreed to was extended to and binds all other employees, including those from "minority" unions and non-unionised members. 

READ: Sibanye: Gold wage deal extended to all workers

One was the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which rejected the offer.

Arrests for 'public violence'

The AMCU was not immediately available to comment, but on its website, it questioned whether the other unions have the majority. 

It is therefore on a protected strike while a court-ordered union membership verification process is under way.

Masooa said police suspected that the wave of house and car torchings were linked to the strike.

He said there were some arrests and court appearances last week for "public violence", but their cases were not at the bail application stage yet, so it was not established if those arrested were unionists. 

Blybank is about 2km away from Sibanye-Stillwater's Shaft 5.

NUM condemned the torching of the houses, which it said belonged to its members who are very worried about the situation.    

By NUM's count, 15 houses and six cars have been burnt since the AMCU strike started in November 2018.

NUM national spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said they suspected that some AMCU members might be behind the arson.

"They barricaded the road and did not let people get to work," he told News24.


The remains of a house in Blybank, near Carletonville. (Supplied)

He alleged that they also carried spears and demanded that people join their union. 

He told News24 that not everybody affiliated to the AMCU supported the strike or took part in the alleged arson or threats to miners and so some of the NUM and AMCU miners were living together in a secret hideaway to stay safe while they continued working.

However, he warned that the topography of the area resembled that of Marikana, Rustenburg, where a massacre took place during a platinum miners' strike in August 2012. It made Blybank prone to an ambush, he said.

"They go over the mountain and are quiet during the day, and they come out at about 18:00 and the attacks start happening at around 19:00," he said. 

ALSO READ: 'We never accepted slave wage deal' - AMCU's Mathunjwa on Sibanye

"This intimidation against members of the NUM has been happening for some time now and our members have reached a stage where they cannot tolerate it anymore," said Mammburu.

Sibanye-Stillwater spokesperson James Wellsted said the company was providing security where possible and the police were providing support.

On January 3, 2019 the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) commenced with the union membership verification exercise as ordered by the Labour Court in December 2018. 

"Management and AMCU could not agree on the terms of reference for the verification exercise. As such, the CCMA adjourned the proceedings," he said. 

"The CCMA provided a progress report to the Labour Court on 7 January, 2019 and has requested the court to provide guidance on the way forward with regards to the verification exercise.

"We have not yet received any feedback from the court."

Read more on:    sibanye-stillwater  |  amcu  |  num  |  ccma  |  johannesburg  |  unions  |  mining

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