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Gold Fields to 'wait and see'

Sep 11 2012 17:44 Sapa

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Johannesburg – Gold Fields [JSE:GFI] mining company would play by ear the impact of expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema's call for a national mine strike, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

"Obviously this is a call to all mineworkers to go on strike and we will have to see what the reaction is," said Sven Lunsche.

Earlier Malema said: "There must be a national strike at all the mines until Frans Baleni and the NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) leadership step down with immediate effect."

He was addressing workers who packed a stadium at the company's KDC west mine near Carletonville on the second day of their strike.

Among their demands, handed in the previous day, was that the Num's leadership at their branch be replaced.

Lunsche said attendance at the mine on Tuesday was around 15%.

The mine employs around 15 000 people, and 80% of them belong to NUM.

The company was granted an interdict by the Labour Court on Monday to stop the strike, but was not enforcing it yet, said Lunsche. It would also not take action against Malema for the strike call.

In the meantime, a group of up to 1 500 workers, who were NUM members, brought their grievances directly to management.

"They are doing this outside of the formal NUM structures," said Lunsche.

At the same time, the union's regional leadership was at the mine trying to resolve the situation. They held meetings on Monday and more had been planned for Tuesday until Malema's visit.

Lunsche said a similar scenario had played out at KDC east mine last week and a demand there was also that the NUM branch leadership be removed. That was resolved after intervention by NUM leadership, and workers at KDC east returned to their posts.

Lunsche said by Tuesday afternoon there was no word of the strike having spread to their other operations. Halted production at KDC west meant a loss of an expected 1 400 ounces of gold per day, he said.

This was mitigated by the no work no pay principle and less electricity consumption. The mine had security and the police were helping, but protests and marches there had been peaceful.

NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka dismissed Malema's call for their leaders to step down and called for a speedy resolution of the strike.

"NUM was not elected by Julius and his cohorts," Seshoka said, adding that the NUM was "not a youth organisation".

"If he is calling for a national strike at mines, he doesn't know what he is talking about. He has never worked. He is equating it to a march of unemployed people."

The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) said Malema was "playing a dangerous game".

"This can only inflame tensions within the mining industry, flames which he is quite incapable of quenching," said Cosatu, the union federation that NUM belongs to and which is aligned to the ANC.

"It is revealing that his main target is not the capitalist employers, who are responsible for the mineworkers' low wages and terrible conditions, but their union, the National union of Mineworkers," spokesman Patrick Craven said.

"Cosatu urges the workers not to allow themselves to be used as a political football, to remain united and strong and to focus their anger on their real enemy, the mining bosses."

Christian Democratic Party leader Theunis Botha said: "Malema must be shown that he is not above the law and those that must show him are those who have been elected and entrusted with ensuring the safety of South Africa's people."

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