Mines unrest: Politics overtakes genuine issues

2012-09-10 22:39

Johannesburg - An academic says the growing labour disputes in the mining sector appear linked to political developments in the country as the African National congress gears up for its crucial elective conference in Mangaung in December where the party will pick the person who will run, and in all likelihood win, the 2014 presidential election.

"It's almost become contagious," said Crispen Chinguno of the sociology department at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

"Although workers have genuine labour grievances, it's gone well beyond labour unrest.

"Some politicians are hijacking the disgruntlement among the workers because the mining sector is at the core of political, social and economic order in South Africa," he said.

Former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema has in recent weeks been inciting mine workers to make mines ungovernable and dump unions in wage negotiations, in the aftermath of the shooting of 34 striking workers at Lonmin's Marikana mine by police.

At a memorial service for the miners, he accused members of government of only attending to pose for news cameras, and claimed that they didn't do anything for the slain workers.

"The reason our government is failing to intervene in the mines is because our leaders are involved and benefitting with white people," he said.

Not long afterwards, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said the mine tragedy had been hijacked by "counter-revolutionaries" who wish to undermine the tripartite alliance.

A war of words also ensued between Malema and Congress of South African Trade Unions' president Sdumo Dlamini who claimed Malema was using death and misery in an attempt to make a comeback to mainstream politics.

"That boy is walking on the bodies of all the people who were killed there [at Marikana]. He is expelled, derogatory, [a] renegade loose cannon. Who is Julius Malema?"

But Malema since addressed disgruntled workers at the Aurora mine in Grootvlei, Springs, as well as Gold Fields' KDC gold mine in Westonaria.

At Grootvlei he promised to lead a revolution which he said would make all mines in the country ungovernable.

"We are going to lead a mining revolution in this country... We will run these mines ungovernable until the boers come to the table," he told workers.

"We want them to give you a minimum wage of R12 500. These people can afford R12 500. Mining in South Africa amounts to trillions of rands."

He said: "Every mine has a politician inside. They give them money every month, they call it shares. But it is [a] protection fee, to protect whites against the workers."

Blacks were worse off than during the apartheid years, he said.

"We are being killed by our own people. We are being oppressed by our own government."

Last week he told workers at Gold Fields' KDC mine: "Leaders of the NUM [National Union of Mineworkers] should know that you can't act for workers without consulting them, and don't take workers for granted."

"If they fail you, you must lead yourself."

On Monday, 15 000 Gold Fields workers downed tools at the mine, demanding the removal of their local union leadership and asking for tax-free bonuses.


The stoppage comes exactly a month after the deadly strike was launched at Lonmin's Marikana mine.

The Gold Fields strike started off when the night shift did not report for duty on Sunday.

"They are demanding the removal of NUM branch leadership," Gold Fields spokesperson Sven Lunsche told AFP.

"There is also a demand to lower tax on wages."

The strike at Gold Fields was the second in two weeks at the world's fourth largest gold producer.

"Employees of the west section of the KDC Gold Mine... on the West Rand in South Africa have been engaging in an unlawful and unprotected strike since the start of the night shift" on Sunday evening, Gold Fields said in a statement.

A strike by 12 000 mine workers at KDC's east section near Johannesburg ended on 5 September after a seven-day stayaway. The workers had also demanded a change in leadership at their local NUM branch.

Meanwhile the strike at Lonmin clocked one month on Monday as ten thousand armed platinum miners marched and chanted songs against President Jacob Zuma.

Just slightly more than 6% of the workers turned up for the job on Monday as strikers muscled into mine shafts to force them to shut.

Michael Kahabo, a striker, said they want all work at the mine to shut down. "It's a small percentage but they must stop working, to join the strike."

Wage talks due to start on Monday had to be adjourned as mediators waited for non-unionised workers' representatives to show up, said Lonmin spokesperson Sue Vey.

One leader reached by phone said they were not ready to attend the talks until there was a guarantee that demands for a threefold increase in pay would be discussed.

They also refused to sign a peace deal last Thursday when Lonmin management and most unions agreed to restore calm.

"If they say we are going talk about money, yes we will go. But if it's this peace accord, we don't have anything to do with the peace agreement because we don't benefit from it," Molisi Phele told AFP.

  • anje.duplessis.9 - 2012-09-10 22:54

    Quoted: "Blacks were worse off than during the apartheid years, he said." Congratulations for figuring that out 18 years after the ANC took over... it will be another 20 years+ before the same people complaining about the ANC vote for anyone else. So sad.

      bernpm - 2012-09-10 23:53

      Quoted: "Blacks were worse off than during the apartheid years, he said." But they do have the right to strike! In many countries women break the strikes as they tell their husbands to go to work to: pay the rent, electricity, food for the family and..... Do our workers not have wives who help them back to work??????

      koos.vandermerwe.75 - 2012-09-11 07:48

      @ Leonardb1: I don’t think the entire population will suffer as you say. If these workers can’t think for themselves they deserve what is coming to them. The union bosses and politicians will go back to their nice homes and big tables while these workers will work for the same money provided that they still have jobs after this. These union bosses and politicians only use the workers to protect themselves and of course for political gain. I have seen this many a time and not only in the mining sector. In fact this is common practice. This country is destined to go the same route as all the other African states because the same politics and same rules on the ground with the same culture apply that has caused so many African states to burn. Only a question of time. Strangely enough if you read our history from the 1800’s till now you’ll find this story over and over and over again. Strangely enough the central themes stay the same. The conclusions that can be drawn is interesting to say the least.

      JockBlack - 2012-09-11 12:38

      South Africa is the only country in the world where affirmative action is in the favour of the majority who has complete political control. The fact that the political majority requires affirmative action to protect them against a 9% minority group is testament to a complete failure on their part to build their own wealth making structures, such that their only solution is to take it from others. Finally, a word recently coined to describe South Africa's current political situation. Ineptocracy (in-ep-toc'-ra-cy) - a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

  • christelle.james.7 - 2012-09-10 22:56

    I honestly did not think it was brain surgery or the need for a politic analyst to see what this was about. I think they should start paying most of the posters on these articles at least R20 000 per month for doing what they analysts are doing. Actually, we should start demanding it.....

      godfrey.welman - 2012-09-10 23:36

      I like the "demanding" bit, I'm in.

      mokgadi.deborah - 2012-09-11 05:58


      heathway.master - 2012-09-11 08:58

      Malema wanting to make the mines ungovernable flies in the face of Zuma's chant of "more jobs" "more jobs" for all.The miners want three fold increases when the financial articles state that Lonmin made a 3 billion rand loss this financial year. Another very significant statistic is that the educational standard in SA, caused by the ANC's (Not Apartheids) chaotic education policy since they took over, has resulted in SA education standard having been downgraded so that the country is placed 140th out of 144 countries that have been studied. The countries with a worse education system include Libya and Yemen. The ANC must be lauded for this achievement. With such an uneducated population, striker’s crazy demands against all logic, can be explained. I would estimate that whites comprise 5% or less of all employees at the mines, yet Julius and the masses et al, want to destroy this leadership base, and replace it with semi-educated incompetents. The masses attitudes of greed, envy and entitlement, have led them to believe that economically unsustainable salaries are the right of all previously disadvantaged, notwithstanding the relatively low levels of skill, and management ability they have, to run a very complex mining industry. They envy the better paid executives of the mines, who single handedly keep the wheels rolling and make their operations sustainable and profitable, and feel that because of black rule, they deserve similar benefits and living standards.

  • nads.delange - 2012-09-10 23:21

    Ah, the poor dumb puppets on the strings of their puppet master. Who will be the new puppet master once Malema drops the strings after getting what he wants from these toys? The funniest thing is, every single time they turn on the president, failing to see that it is the ANC as a whole that was never on their side to begin with. But as I said, they are but puppets.

  • desertratbkf - 2012-09-11 00:06

    I was a 20 a year old, that went to northern South West Afica. Wasted 2 years of my life to fight for democracy under Helen Suzman! And this is what the country has turned out to be! Greed, self fulfillment and disgusting lies! cANCer, you have FAILED your people! PEOPLE? Stop voting for these thieving, lying, murdering cadres! Build us all!

      Timmytomas - 2012-09-11 07:53

      The Biggest problem "you failed YOUR PEOPLE" we still have a long way to go before everything comes together for "US" to be a nation

  • - 2012-09-11 00:30

    The **it has hit a high-speed fan!

  • ben.spreeth - 2012-09-11 01:22

    Politics has taken over because the unions should never have been part of the ruling party and therefor a political party being on the receiving end of any union.

      shades.wanza - 2012-09-11 07:52

      unions not being part of the alliance woild've been great for the country. Cosatu sold out or were flippin stupid, hard to guess which. Could be both . With the ANC assured the worker vote, they steal from the workers and still have their vote.

  • sally.lewitt - 2012-09-11 03:03

    Again.. Again.. and Again..! Distractions from the REAL issues at hand eg. Education crisis, housing, medical. The 'out of control corruption' The poor under-educated masses are the ones suffering and starving. The divide between rich and dirt poor is a gaping open festering wound that seems to never heal.. Its constantly being covered up with un-sterile dressing. What IS happening to OUR Beloved Country? God help us..

  • emmanuel.roodt - 2012-09-11 03:21

    While they're at it, why not ask for R18000 per month.

  • cya.ngoma - 2012-09-11 06:19

    These people can't even see how this will affect the country as a whole, how can you demand such an amount of an increase? This really shows how uneducated. They can't even put it on % because its discusting,. Malema will lead them to the dark hole and its a pity that they don't see that coming. May God open their blinded minds before its too late

      hsebolelo - 2012-09-11 06:53

      A payslip was shown on TV, with a Net pay of R3900.00, the 300% is not feasible.but R4000 take home..he's been working for past 15 years

      cya.ngoma - 2012-09-11 07:17

      Mzukisi these guys sh'ld have gone for a reasonable increase like at least R8000 not R12500. Ya I agree R4000 is not enough for a living but that was too much.

      hannesenbrianda - 2012-09-11 08:07

      There are loads of people that would like to work for that R4,000 per month and that includes people of all races.

  • long.tom.509 - 2012-09-11 07:08

    It's the work of the "3rd Wors"

  • vivian.harris.73 - 2012-09-11 07:27

    Uneducated masses being conned for political gain. Just because u work in a mine don't mean u can run a mine. ANC thought they could run a country.....very poor attempt. But they know how to steal and oppress their own people....

  • lulama.mbelwa - 2012-09-11 07:35

    People I have a concern regarding this ridicule increase the miners are demanding. We all know they're demands are base less however there was an article posted here on N24 about the management of the miners whome one person earns over 1.2m a month, I was so shocked. But then is it fair to pay the workers only 4000 when just one person can take over a Million a month. That is not fair, these miners are the ones doing all the hard work and management is really exploiting its workers. How can there such be a huge difference in pay like that then we say they can't afford to give them 12 500, on those basis I find myself supporting the demand of 12 500.

      kenny.bianco.7 - 2012-09-11 08:56

      U must be brain-dead or joking, running(managing) a mine is not like drilling a rock

      elspeth.hassall - 2012-09-11 09:55

      and I am SHOCKED every time I read about all those lazy Members of Parliament and the salaries they are paid and the perks that go with it...not fair on all those pensioners, (black, white, coloured and Indian) who have given so much to this country, and now they live on next to nothing... go talk to that 99 year old Gogo who was on TV news last night and ask her what's "FAIR"...

      lulama.mbelwa - 2012-09-11 14:09

      Then maybe I am Kenny, if that will make you sleep better at night, ofcos ya'll will agree with t he salaries of the management because its your fellow whites that are taking all the money from the people.

  • itumeleng.moeti.94 - 2012-09-11 07:41

    It very amazing the comments u find here in news 24 White people blaming blacks and Blacks blaming whites, yes ANC did not fail people but the people who are in the driving seat of the ANC did and hw long will Different races in SA stop blaming each other or my I say being racist and all of you who are racist u so stupid u can't c u r ruining the country and your children their suffer bcos of ur stupidity.

      mike.dufham.7 - 2012-09-11 07:51

      I agree with you on this. If only we could all stand together as a united force and demand as well as ensure that the people in charge of running the country have the peoples' interests at heart, not their own selfish agendas

  • Harold Chisimba - 2012-09-11 07:42

    Am fed up with this Lonmin saga,It has brought some boredom now.

  • customdesign - 2012-09-11 07:59

    These miners should be arrested. The strike is illegal and they are inciting violence. I don't understand how they are allowed to hold our country ransom like that. Our government is weak.

      koos.vandermerwe.75 - 2012-09-11 08:14

      Hahahaha it's your government that is doing this.

      kenny.bianco.7 - 2012-09-11 08:54

      Don't blame the government, the DA nd other opposition parties slammed the government when the Police did their job nd protected themselves, FACE THE TRUTH, all these politicians are useless

      koos.vandermerwe.75 - 2012-09-11 09:50

      @kenny.bianco.7: You are preaching to the converted my friend. Might want to add lawyers to that list. Any case it is the governments, the cANCer government. Think for a second, what would be the easiest way to nationalize mines?

  • marc.klynhans - 2012-09-11 08:34

    Give them R12 500. Then in a few months they'll demand more. But not only that, they want to be treated unfairly and pay less tax. Goodness, their minds have been poisoned!

      yvonne.joseph.1612 - 2012-09-11 09:06

      Why don't all ministers give up one official car,and one official residence. This will net about R300 million,we can give that to the miners. Politicians will still have 1 car and 1 house.

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