‘Apologise, compensate Marikana victims and declare a public holiday’

The scene at the Marikana massacre in 2012. Picture: Archive
The scene at the Marikana massacre in 2012. Picture: Archive

President of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) Joseph Mathunjwa has given himself a pat on the back for securing better wages for mine workers.

He said this was something the ANC-aligned National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) had failed to achieve in ages.

Mathunjwa said the NUM was now in a “museum somewhere in Gold Reef [City]”, and referred to it as the “once upon a time mighty union”.

His union, Amcu, gained popularity in the Rustenburg platinum mines in 2012, and after the Marikana Massacre.

Amcu raked in thousands of members at the expense of the NUM, which had lost trust with workers in mines at the height of wage protests around the same time.

Mathunjwa said his union was still calling for the least-paid worker in the mines to earn at least R12 500.

“Amcu doesn’t discuss percentages, we discuss rands and cents,” he said.

The Amcu leader said workers had continued earning peanuts because the NUM used percentages in negotiations but then “Mathunjwa came, Amcu came and changed the status quo”.

He said since Amcu became the majority and challenged the status quo, “no worker was still earning less than R7 500”. He added that if it was up to the NUM they would still be taking home around R5 000.

He said this killed the NUM and added that “there’s a political party that will soon join them in a museum” without mentioning any party by name.

Mathunjwa later said the Marikana massacre was a result of the “alliance between the ANC, South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions”.

“Any political party that wants to form a union will compromise their position ... as Amcu we made sure our members are free to join and vote for any political party of their choice ... there is no need for a political party to form a trade union,” he said.

Mathunjwa called for “President Jacob Zuma to apologise to the nation, compensate [Marikana] victims and declare August 16 a public holiday”.

Meanwhile, a widow of one of the 34 mine workers killed in Marikana said Lonmin was taking care of their children’s education and had given them jobs but that was not enough.

Ntandazo Nokamba’s wife Nosakhe complained that harsh working conditions underground were not easy.

She was one of the widows who took up the offer to work for Lonmin when the company asked victims’ families to nominate one member to replace their family member who had been killed.

Nosakhe said that by taking up a job offer in Marikana, far from her home in the Eastern Cape, she was kept away from her children back home but she had no other choice.

She said they continued struggling as though they chose their husbands to be killed and added that it was painful that, even today, mineworkers’ salaries were yet to get anywhere close to the R12 500 their husbands were demanding when killed.

She also complained about the living conditions in Marikana, where most of mine workers were still living in squalor in shacks surrounding the mine shafts, with limited basic services such as water, sanitation and electricity.

In his response during his address at the fourth “Marikana Massacre” commemoration, Lonmin chief executive Ben Magara said his company was trying.

He said Lonmin was putting 143 children of striking miners shot dead by the police through school, and added that one of them had already obtained a degree.

“One of them, Mandla Jawa, has already completed his degree in agriculture and has started with his master’s degree,” he said.

At the end of the proceedings, at about 4pm – the same time the grounds turned into a battlefield on this day four years ago – family members of the deceased miners held candles in remembrance of their loved ones.

Meanwhile, Amcu had opened a trust fund in which R2 million was deposited. It would go towards helping families of Marikana victims and building them houses.

Malema yesterday pledged R1 million for the fund, which also received pledges of R50 000 from the DA’s Mmusi Maimane and the UDM’s Bantu Holomisa.

Magara pledged R100 000 from his personal account.

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