NUM's Gauteng regional chair stabbed at mass meeting

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has confirmed that the NUM Gauteng regional chairperson Ndlela Radebe was stabbed and injured at a mass meeting on Monday as the strike at Gold Fields against retrenchments enters its fifth week.

NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said Radebe was allegedly attacked while addressing members who want to return to work, at the Greenhills Stadium in Randfontein, west of Johannesburg and was rescued by NUM security.

Radebe is in a stable condition and was taken to the Lenmed private hospital in Randfontein.

Gold Fields announced a restructuring plan in August for its loss-making South Deep mine in Westonaria, west of Johannesburg. The NUM downed tools on November 2 in protest against 1 082 employees and 420 contractors losing their positions. The company is losing R6m a day and workers have forfeited more than R70m in wages, according to Gold Fields data.

'End the strike'

The attack comes a day after Radebe issued a directive, seen by Fin24, ordering the South Deep branch to end the protracted strike. The NUM branch has so far refused to accept a revised offer by Gold Fields, which expired on Friday, saying the number of retrenchments had not been reduced.

"We believe the branch has done everything in its power to compel the employer to accede to its demands of reviewing the number of workers to be retrenched and reduce the number of workers without success.

"It is against this backdrop that we believe the branch need (sic) to reassess its position in relation to the continuation of this strike and take a decision in the interest of all affected members," the document stated.

Radebe also wrote that the region had received "countless calls from" concerned NUM members, who believe the industrial action threatens their job security. He added that defending the retrenched workers could not be at the expense of more jobs or the closure of the South Deep operation.

The letter concludes by asking the branch leadership to consider the revised offer on the table by Gold Fields and end the strike.

'Not a mass meeting'

Showing signs of the divisions between the NUM region and the South Deep union leadership, NUM branch secretary at South Deep Thulani Mashibini told Fin24 he was unaware of regional officials meeting with disgruntled members on Monday.

"It was not a mass meeting. We must correct that; we are shocked and saddened to hear [about] what happened to the regional chair," Mashibini said.

He added that he had not seen the directive from Radebe ordering the branch to end the industrial action and accept the revised offer.

"This strike has to be ended by means of engagement with management, Mashibini said.

The company last week offered a "sweetener" to the retrenchment package, with four-weeks extra retrenchment pay. It also proposed to provide sacked employees with skills training and to make provision for a "call-back" option, which will allow them to be first in line to be reemployed if opportunities arise, provided they match the requisite skill set.

The proposed settlement offers further made provision to spread the four weeks of no pay during the industrial action, over four months.

Gold Fields said it was awaiting further details of the incident and will release a statement later.

Randfontein police spokesperson Carmen Hendricks said police officers went to the hospital to record a statement by Radebe. 

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