Mineworkers in Marikana had taken a brave step by fighting for better wages without their trade union, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa has said.
“It was brave of you to bypass the middleman, the National Union of Mineworkers, when you realised that it was no longer serving your best interests,” he today told around 2000 people at a Human Rights Day event near the Marikana koppie where 34 miners were shot and killed on August 16 last year.
“It is encouraging to see that you continue to fight for your rights despite the challenges facing you,” he said to applause.
He commended the NUM’s rival, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, for its work during wage negotiations with platinum miner Lonmin.
He said only a few were benefiting from the country’s mineral wealth.
“It seems that we were foolish to think that after 1994 things would change. Instead we see a selected few, parachuted into the mining industry under the guise of black economic empowerment, who have absolutely no ownership and no control.
“The debate around the nationalisation of mines has been raging for quite some time and I bet that last word was not said at (the ANC policy conference in) Mangaung.
“As long as there is no transparency about who really benefits from mining in South Africa, this problem will not go away.”
There was ululating and cheering and several people ran alongside Holomisa’s vehicle when his convoy arrived around midday.
Earlier, United Democratic Movement secretary-general Bongani Msomi said most mineworkers felt neglected by the government and were joining opposition parties.
“The feeling of those workers is that the government of the day has let them down,” Msomi said.
“They are saying government should have intervened earlier to avoid what happened at that koppie. They think that if they strengthen the opposition, maybe the government will start being responsive. The workers feel that the government is not on their side.”
Msomi said although the UDM had confidence in the judicial commission of inquiry into the Marikana shooting, mineworkers were pessimistic.
“After the shooting she [national police commissioner Riah Phiyega] said she was not apologetic, but now she is only doing it because of the pressure she is under. Now that she is under pressure, she has now somersaulted from her words.
“The workers don’t understand her.”
Phiyega has been testifying in Rustenburg at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the Marikana shooting.
While waiting for Holomisa to arrive, one group of workers sang: “Holomisa biza loMalema, Siyabulalwa ngoZuma” (Holomisa bring Julius Malema, Zuma is killing us), referring to former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema and President Jacob Zuma.
On August 16, 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 were injured when the police opened fire near Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana. Ten people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed near the mine in the preceding week.