'Leaders taking advantage of Lonmin'

Aug 24 2012 16:06

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Lonmin plc [JSE:LON]

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Johannesburg - Many political leaders, including former ANCYL president Julius Malema, are using the shooting at Lonmin's Marikana mine to destabilise Cosatu, the union federation said on Friday.

"Suddenly politicians, far removed from the reality workers face... are suddenly positioning themselves opportunistically as the champions of the RDOs (rock drill operators)," Congress of SA Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told reporters in Johannesburg.

"Their latest recruit is former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, a wealthy, essentially right wing leader, who demagogically exploits any perceived weakness to encourage workers to leave their union, their only means of defence."

Vavi said Malema knew Cosatu had its own weaknesses, but it never hid them away. He said a true revolutionary would not tell workers to form splinter unions and become "naked" without the trade federation.

Cosatu leader Sdumo Dlamini said the memorial service in Wonderkop on Thursday was an "engineered plan" by Malema to insult his "perceived opponents".

"Julius must stop what he is doing, it is not helping him and it is not helping nobody... (it will) ferment divisions in society just because he is expelled from the ANC."

He said there was an "onslaught" against Cosatu by right wing organisations in an effort to discredit it.

"Clearly here we are dealing with an orchestrated, planned, political agenda to weaken Cosatu, and if you have to weaken Cosatu, you start with the biggest union... the National Union of Mineworkers," he said.

"It is not hidden, it is an open agenda. This 27-year-old workers' movement in South Africa will never be broken."

Dlamini questioned the morals of political parties who tried to "cash-in" on the shooting.

Vavi said that according to the "small mind" of the Democratic Alliance, the ANC was finished, and its only enemy left standing was Cosatu.

"Suddenly today they are expressing shock (at the Lonmin [JSE:LON] shooting)... They have the audacity of blaming the same unions who they condemned every day for taking up these issues (of salaries)," he said.

"Where are they when we lead mineworkers for months? Where are they when workers get tear-gassed on every street all over the country?

"Are they not the same people who condemn us for leading those strikes and now who are suddenly (speaking out) because they think it will get them into newspaper headlines all over the world?" he asked.

Vavi and Dlamini both criticised the National Transport and Allied Workers' Union, a breakaway from the SA Transport Workers' Union and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu). The latter was formed by former National Union of Mineworkers' members.

Dlamini said Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa had deceived his members by not telling them he was expelled from Num because of his behaviour.

Vavi said that even though a commission of enquiry would look into the shooting, police had to be reprimanded for their "brutality".
"One question which we have to confront immediately... is (about) a pattern of brutality and a 'skiet en donner' (shoot and hit) attitude on the part of the commanders of the police," he said.

"There can be no doubt that the police response was excessive and forms a pattern we have witnessed for many years in terms of how police handle demonstrations."

He said while workers had the right to be militant and angry, they also had to be "peaceful, lawful and orderly" when protesting.

"We extend our hands of solidarity (to mineworkers) to say you will not walk alone," Vavi said.

"Eventually you will see that the real, genuine champions of your cause are not the johnny-come-latelys (Malema), but the federation of workers and its affiliates that have consistently represented your interests."

He said RDOs were at the centre of the dispute, and they performed "a more dangerous, unhealthy and difficult job than anyone else in the world".

"They face death every time they go down the shafts. Yet their monthly earnings are just R5600," he said.

"Compare that to their bosses. The earnings of Lonmin's financial officer, Alan Ferguson, are R10 254 972 a year, R854 581 a month. That is 152 times higher than an RDO."

He said Cosatu would discuss the "agenda" to weaken and divide its members at its national conference next month.

Num general secretary Frans Baleni told reporters that of the 34 workers shot dead during a confrontation with police at the mine last Thursday, 11 were affiliated with his union.


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