Mining bosses are to blame for the violent labour unrest in the platinum-rich town of Rustenburg, which has threatened to cripple the economy and has seen thousands losing their jobs, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has said.
Addressing the National Union of Mineworkers’ central committee meeting at St. George Hotel in Irene, Pretoria, yesterday Vavi also lashed out at the media and the Democratic Alliance for “blackmailing” unions into submission over their wage demands.
His comments come as ANC treasurer Zweli Mkhize earlier told the NUM gathering that if it weren’t for the labour unrest on Rustenburg’s platinum belt, the mining industry could have created nearly 60?000 jobs.
He said the media, the political opposition and the mine bosses were working in cahoots to undermine the tripartite alliance and ultimately “destroy” the power of unions and its alliance.
Vavi told NUM delegates their real battle was not only against the rival Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), but mine bosses themselves.
“Now these ruthless employers are on the offensive. They, and their political allies in the DA and other opposition parties, and their friends in the media, have declared war on the NUM and therefore by extension also on Cosatu and its alliance partners.
“They must not be allowed to succeed. Our unity is our strength. We cannot allow mine bosses to return us to the old days.
To prove how “ruthless” mine bosses were, Vavi claimed Lonmin, Implats and Amplats collectively reaped between R160 billion in profits between 2006 and 2011.
“That’s enough to build more than 3 million one-room RDP houses at R50?000 each. So why are platinum workers still living in shacks?” said Vavi.
President Jacob Zuma was the only person left to convince to establish a commission of inquiry into the conduct of mining bosses, similar to the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, Vavi said.
“We’ve convinced the Chamber of Mines and the Cabinet, we need to do a final push to the president to look at the mining industry and issues that very few people are prepared to talk about,” said Vavi, to applause from the NUM executive.
Unions would also demand minimum wages of between R7?000 and R8?000 for all mine workers, said Vavi, a demand from which the union would not back down.
Mkhize said none of the opposition parties had the “power to destroy the ANC”.
“But the ANC must clean all the dirt inside that may result in people losing confidence in the leadership,” said Mkhize.
He labelled Amcu a “panga-wielding” group of “ultra-leftists” who conducted wage negotiation through “intimidation, murder, illegal wildcat strikes, violence and anarchy”.
“No negotiations must be done through pangas and spears,” said Mkhize.
He said government was concerned about the bitterness, hostility and hatred between the warring unions, NUM and Amcu, and called for everyone to discourage violence “everywhere we go”.
NUM is holding its first central committee meeting since it had lost its majority representation of workers to rival Amcu and the violent deaths of Lonmin mine workers in August last year.