Fin24

Num steps in to stem mine violence

2012-09-04 16:47


Johannesburg - South Africa's powerful mineworkers union on Tuesday tried to rein in unrest in the vital mining sector which has turned into a battleground for rival political and labour factions.

The National Union of Mineworkers (Num), a key ally of the ruling ANC, denounced calls to exploit the turmoil that stemmed from killings at a platinum mine last month.

"In a normal environment it would be regarded as economic sabotage," said Num secretary general Frans Baleni.

The mining industry accounts for about a fifth of GDP in Africa's largest economy.

The ANC's fiery former youth leader Julius Malema has been travelling to troubled mines, firing up workers and attacking his enemies in the party that expelled him, including President Jacob Zuma.

Last week, he told workers to make mines "ungovernable" and on Monday told striking gold miners at Gold Fields [JSE:GFI], where 12 000 miners have downed tools, to bypass the Num if they felt the labour giant had failed them.

The stoppages have shut down Lonmin's [JSE:LON] Marikana platinum mine, which has been in the spotlight after 44 people died in a deadly strike for a wage hike. Union rivalry has been blamed for the escalation.

On Tuesday, a group of 200 miners marched on the mine, where police shot dead 34 protesters last month, demanding their colleagues don't return to work at the world's number three platinum producer.

Talks are set to restart on Wednesday after government mediators failed to reach a breakthrough with mine management, unions and worker representatives.

Observers point to political jockeying as the ANC gears up for a crucial year-end elective conference and don't foresee a quick let up until after the conference is held in Bloemfontein, known in Sesotho as Mangaung.

"Until December we are going to see more and more disruptions because the unions are over politicised," said Iraj Adedian, head of the Pan African Investments.

The union, the country's largest with 300 000 members, has come under fire for its close ties with the ANC and also seen challenges to its dominance on mineworkers membership.
 
The mining sector contributes around 20% of the GDP and directly employs a million people.

"It's easy to be a populist when you are dealing with economic issues," ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told Talk Radio 702.

"If you say we must kill billionaires, you get an applause from workers, if you say we must shut down the mines, you will get an appluse from mineworkers, until the reality of mine closures come to the fore."

The crisis will take a while to settle, experts predicted.

"This is like the war in Afghanistan, you don't know who exactly you are dealing with. How powerful, how organised and representative they really are," Peter Major, a mining expert told AFP.

"The unions here were possibly getting too large, too removed from their constituencies and too involved in politics," he added.

"So in a way there may be some good results that can come out of this crisis," he said.

Zuma is battling challengers for re-election as ANC chief, which would virtually guarantee another term in office, while enemies like Malema are trying to push him from the helm of the party that has led the country since democracy in 1994.

The 270 mineworkers arrested over the killing of their 34 colleagues shot dead at the Lonmin mine by police, have been set free on MOnday after a court dropped murder charges that had sparked public outrage.

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Comments
  • thabang.bonang.7 - 2012-09-04 17:58

    NUM (pty)ltd.

      charlesdumbwin.dumbwin - 2012-09-04 18:07

      National Union of Morons

      christelle.james.7 - 2012-09-04 18:28

      No Understanding of Mining?

  • douglas.reid.921 - 2012-09-04 18:19

    Juju will give them all jobs so can replace them with hard-working cheap chinese miners. No Num or Cosato necessary and they will love the hostels. Problem solved. More profit for mines. Chinese won't dare strike cause in china people who make mischief get shot every day. We got the indians to do the sugarcane cause the locals were problematic. Maybe we can even send our miners to china for lessons.

  • Stewart Croucamp - 2012-09-04 18:28

    The ANC should place a life ban on Julius so that he can start a new political party. I am sure no other party wants him.

  • julio.sanfona - 2012-09-04 18:49

    Viva the anarchists viva! This is politics ANC style. It's all about every one trying by any means whatsoever to gain popularity and climb to the top of the hierarchy at the cost of the nation, the poor workers and social stability. Any fool can destroy and make structures ungovernable, but it takes a real leader to unite, build and make conditions better for all. Such is the greed of these scumbags that they are prepared to turn brother against brother for their own personal agendas. Sadly the poorest of the poor are always willing to oblige and be led to the precipice.

  • grace.andtruth.77 - 2012-09-04 18:53

    ANC... You just reaping what you sowed! Now deal with it hahaha! You were warned YEARS ago to snuff the fat boy!

  • mandla.thwala.10 - 2012-09-04 18:54

    You can not walk two path's at the same time,this alslo goes with NUM they must choose if they want represent workers or simply go to politics

      christelle.james.7 - 2012-09-04 19:17

      You are right mandla - they are so involved in politics and now they are crying political games. Rich coming from them

  • peter.fraser.92754 - 2012-09-05 07:16

    We will have civil war before 2020.Mark my words.Not being negative,just looking at the signs.Everything in this country is about POWER, nothing to do with upliftment of the poorest of the poorest.It is a fight about power, a violent fight about power.And herewith endeth my comment.Shoot(pun) me down, but the poorest of the poor is flourishing all over the world, and South Africa is no exeption.

  • elton.vhurumuku - 2012-09-05 07:26

    EVEN IF THE WORKERS GET R12500 BY THE END OF THE YEAR THAT MONEY WILL BE WORTH NOTHING BECOZ INFLATION WILL RISE AND ALSO INCREASING THEIR SALARY WILL AFFECT THE WHOLE ECONOMY AS SALARY BANDS ARE GOING TO SHIFT UPWARDS THEREBY RAISING INFLATION. WE SAW IT ALL IN ZIM RAISING SALARIES IS NOT THE SOLUTION

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