Joseph Mathunjwa was on Friday re-elected to lead the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), extending his time at the helm of the labour movement he founded in 1998.
Mathunjwa was elected unopposed at a congress held in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg. In his address, the firebrand leader vowed to be unapologetic about fighting for poor workers, while slamming the government for being anti-poor.
“We are more than just a union that conducts wage negotiations and we need to take our children off the streets. As a re-elected president, I am not going to be apologetic. We have been given a mandate as AMCU leaders, we have work to do,” he said.
“Those who have elected us, are expecting a lot from us. This is not an inheritance,” he said. The conference was the union’s first elective congress since 2013.
Since its formation, AMCU has increased its membership, particularly in the North West platinum belt, with considerable gains in the gold sector. The union was behind the Marikana massacre which saw 34 Lonmin mine workers killed by police during a strike over wages in August 2012.
“This government is not for the poor but for those with influence. Workers are still being killed and there is no accountability for the mining bosses who continue to kill workers,” said Mathunjwa.
“We, as a country, cannot expect anything better when those implicated in the Marikana Massacre are running the country.”
The union is known for staging lengthy strikes over working conditions and pay increases. In April, AMCU ended a five-month long strike at Sibanye-Stillwater gold mines, as it opposed a three-year wage agreement signed between the company and the National Union of Metalworkers, Solidarity and UASA.
Under Mathunjwa's leadership, AMCU has also faced challenges with authorities. In April the department of labour issued a notice of intention to deregister the trade union due to non-compliance with its constitution, arguing it was not a genuine trade union. The Registrar of Labour Relations, Lehlohonolo Molefe, later announced that the union would not be deregistered.