Johannesburg - Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi on
Thursday urged striking mineworkers at Impala Platinum's (Implats) Rustenburg
operation to return to work.
"Let us go back," he told the group at the stadium
in Freedom Park, Rustenburg. They shouted back that they were not prepared to
do so. Vavi told the workers a meeting had been set for Friday between Cosatu
and Implats to discuss the strike.
He said Cosatu would argue that all dismissed workers should
be reinstated with the same benefits they enjoyed before the strike.
"It will not help for us to go back one by one. Let us
all go back to work, and allow negotiations to continue." Leaders of the
striking workers told Vavi they would not to return to their jobs unless their
demands for a R9 000 monthly salary, after deductions, were met.
“Why do we go underground without money?” asked one worker,
“Ga re e koo, (we are not going there),” the crowd
responded, referring to the mine. Moraka said they embarked on an unprotected
strike because when they went on legal strikes they returned to work
Implats workers had been on an unprotected strike for five
"Sifuna R9 000 (We want R9 000)," workers sang
while waving placards reading "Vavi help us, we are in danger by Impala,
we want R9 000", as they waited for him to arrive at the stadium.
When he failed to arrive at 16:00 they grew restless and
started leaving. They shouted down Rustenburg mayor Mpho Khunou when he tried
to restore order. Vavi arrived 20 minutes later and was escorted by police to
convince the crowd to return to the venue. The crowd ran down the road towards
the sports ground, shouting "Vavi, Vavi, Vavi".
He told them he had been in a meeting with Labour Minister
Mildred Oliphant and also had to attend a meeting with the National Union of
Metalworkers of SA.
Before he could speak, Cosatu North West provincial secretary
Solly Phetoe and Khunou were escorted off the stage at the insistence of the
Workers shouted they did not want to see the two alongside
Vavi. They wanted their leaders to share the stage with him instead.
The mine fired 17 000 of its employees after they refused to
return to work. The National Union of Mineworkers (Num) negotiated with Implats
to re-employ them but the majority, especially those at the mine's southern
shaft, refused to go back to work unless their demands were met.
The North West government said a settlement agreement
between the Num and Impala Platinum Holdings [JSE:IMP] had been reached on
Finance MEC Louisa Mabe and Rustenburg mayor Mpho Khunou
represented the provincial and local government at the meeting, spokesperson
Lesiba Kgwele said in a statement.
"The North West provincial government has welcomed the
unconditional re-employment of about 17 000 striking mineworkers as a
progressive development that will allow normality to return to the volatile
situation at Freedom Park."