Johannesburg - As former mining mogul, Cyril Ramaphosa could favour mining bosses’ agenda of restructuring to revive profits and unleash a renewed jobs bloodbath, labour union AMCU warned on Tuesday.
The Association of Mining and Construction Workers Union slammed the Deputy President's election as ANC president, saying his ‘New Deal’ economic policies will lead to austerity measures and infringe on workers’ rights.
The mining union, which rose to prominence in the wake of the 44 deaths in Marikana, called the former Lonmin executive director's election “a threat to radical economic and social transformation as initiated by the workers in Marikana at Lonmin in 2012, who were massacred for demanding a living wage of R12 500”.
Ramaphosa was cleared of wrongdoing related to Marikana by the Farlam Commission of Inquiry in 2015. A series of emails showed that he’d called on the police in August 2012 to take “concomitant action” against the unlawful strike.
The majority union on the platinum belt said that the rand strengthening by 4% on Monday, to a 9-month high of around R12.55 to the dollar, proved that Ramaphosa is backed by big business.
“The reaction of the markets demonstrates how big capital, domestic and foreign, perceive the new leader of the ANC as the gatekeeper to their interests. This is reinforced by his reformist R20 an hour National Minimum Wage when workers are pushing for a living wage.”
AMCU is opposed to the national minimum wage deal which was spearheaded by Ramaphosa at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) and is scheduled to become effective in May 2018.
Rival union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) had a different message for its founding general secretary and expressed delight at his election to the ANC’s top job.
"We wish comrade Cyril Ramaphosa and the collective all the very best during their term of office. We expect the newly elected President to be bold and brave to lead South Africa out of the current crisis of corruption and state capture into a prosperous future," said David Sipunzi, NUM General Secretary in a statement.
The NUM praised his record at the helm of the union, which he left in 1991 when he was elected as ANC secretary general.
“It is through the gallant fight by comrade Cyril Ramaphosa and others that miners who had for many years of service were given only a helmet and a pair of boots on their retirement and are today able to receive retirement benefits”.
The Chamber of Mines called for a “renewed focus by the ruling party on responsible and ethical leadership”, following Ramaphosa’s election win.
Mamokgethi Molopyane, a labour and mining analyst at Creative Voodoo Consulting said the new ANC president’s first test is the Mining Charter lll which the Chamber of Mines will challenge in court in February 2018.
“He’ll have to strike a balance, if he can strike a mediated settlement in the mining charter,” she commented to Fin24.
She disagreed with AMCU that Ramaphosa will allow large scale job losses in the mining industry and said companies would in fact want to show their support for him and his economic plans.
“Most multi-nationals were already restructuring and job losses were already happening… business [now] might put off anything that could be seen as contrary to Ramaphosa.”
Statistics SA said in the Mining Industry 2015 report that 50 000 jobs were lost in the mining industry between 2012-2015. Lonmin announced in December that 12 600 will need to be cut over the next 3 years, in addition to the 1 100 positions shed by the company in 2017.
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