Workers warned before bloodbath

2012-08-17 15:46

Johannesburg - An emotional and a heartfelt plea was made to striking workers near a Lonmin mine in Marikana in North West province moments before many were gunned down by police.

"I told them to leave... I pleaded, I pleaded," said Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) on Friday.

He was overcome by tears at a news briefing in Johannesburg as he recounted events on Thursday that led up to the shooting which saw 34 people killed near the mine.

"I pleaded with them: 'The writing is on the wall, they are going to kill you'," he had told protesters.

Mathunjwa had visited the protesters accompanied by other Amcu leaders at the time.

Workers had refused to leave, vowing to stay on the hill even if they were killed because their mission was to feed their families.

"We got in our cars and left... After a few minutes the phone rang (about the shooting). I wanted to turn back and go and die with my comrades," said Mathunjwa, wiping away tears with a handkerchief.

But those in the car with him decided to drive to safety.

Police fired on the protesters, many of whom were armed, while trying to disperse them after a week of violent protests that led to the deaths of ten people.

Mathunjwa and those in the car with him noticed a car following them and had to use different routes to return to Johannesburg. They arrived back at 3:00 on Friday.

Police put the death toll at 34, while the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said it was 36.

Mathunjwa said Amcu protesters were without police or a security escort, or any supervision on Thursday while NUM had security.

"This security is for the individually connected."

He said there was no union rivalry, but that the NUM had "internal issues" which had nothing to do with Amcu.

"It's not a rival issue with NUM and Amcu. It's a domestic issue with(in) NUM," he said.

Mathunjwa dismissed reports that Amcu was funded by expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.

"The allegations are baseless and unfounded. We have no political relationship with any political movement inside this country or outside."

"We are committed to any process that will stabilise the area and bring peace and calm to the area," said Mathunjwa.

Amcu was a recognised trade union at Lonmin with 7 000 members, most of them at Lonmin's Karee mine.

It had about 30 000 members nationally.

Mathunjwa called on President Jacob Zuma to investigate the bloodbath.

"It is with great regret and shock that the situation... had resulted in the loss of lives of so many mine workers.

"It is our strong belief that this unfortunate killing could have been avoided... [if the matter] was treated with the sensitivity it deserved."

He also called on the nation to observe an hour of mourning for those who were killed. A minute of silence was observed at the start of the media briefing.

Amcu planned to visit the families of the deceased and assist with funeral costs.

Workers claimed to be earning R4 000 a month, while those living outside the hostel were earning an extra R1 000. They were demanding a salary of R12 500 a month.

The bloodbath made international headlines, and led to a drop in Lonmin's share price.

South Africa accounts for about three-quarters of the world's platinum, which is used to make catalytic converters in cars.

London-based Lonmin [JSE:LON] told the Guardian that 96% of its production comes from Marikana.

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  • kevin.pitzer - 2012-08-17 16:27

    Sounds to me as if the Captain jumped into the first life raft available and left the ship to sink !

      mofstok - 2012-08-17 17:10

      Hahaha alicia! Can't give him a purple heart- he was never wounded in action.

      kevin.pitzer - 2012-08-17 17:35

      @Alicia I saw him too however it was to late for him to stop the run away train he contributed to creating momentum.I am sure he will have sleepless nights for quite some time to come.

      squeegee.pilot - 2012-08-17 17:43

      He saw the coming consequences of his own efforts and realized that he would be in for the high jump. Too little, too late.

  • arthur.hugh - 2012-08-17 16:31

    So what use is the union then, if their members won't listen? You incited them to strike in the first place, no doubt with angry protest speeches before they rallied together. Now you want to cry about it? Too late boet, blood on your hands.

      kevin.pitzer - 2012-08-17 16:35

      My sentiment exactly....Well said !

  • Thando Tdoz Kubheka - 2012-08-17 16:34

    LOL he is lying no one would want to go back this is not world war.

  • mlando.mngomezulu - 2012-08-17 16:36

    "I wanted to turn back and go and die with my comrades," said Mathunjwa, wiping away tears" Hypocrite, that's all I can say. In the next episode our brave leader and his comrades are scared by a car following them. They duck and dive the whole night till 3 AM. How about leading from the front especially if you incite violence. This man is playing with our emotions.

  • larry.piggott1 - 2012-08-17 16:38

    Possibly they thought that they had the same clout as the Taxi industry?

  • philip.buys.1 - 2012-08-17 16:46

    They should put this cronie in jail. He is one of the hooligans that started this.

  • brendon.nel.7 - 2012-08-17 16:47

    Ha ha ha he wanted to return to die with his comrades!!!!! Bull sh#t!! The yelow bellied bastard was prob like \ eish let's get the f*ck ou of here before these mindless cattle get their asses handed to them by the saps!\ These unions are a joke! Its their fault to start of with. If they really cared for their \comrades\ they would never have left the frontline till they had been calmed down and sent home.

  • sekwati.robinson - 2012-08-17 17:23

    mathunjwa bloody liar,you incited the strikers with war songs together with that ''you will be invincible to bullets'' witch-doctor...don't you dare lie to us,for all we know you could be responsible for this mess...

  • refilwekhumalo.precious - 2012-08-17 17:33

    The miners should have seen what happen to them.They have themselve to blame because they never had peaceful intention among themselve..Brandishing a weapon is criminal and then what do u expect.

  • refilwekhumalo.precious - 2012-08-17 17:33

    The miners should have seen what happen to them.They have themselve to blame because they never had peaceful intention among themselve..Br\r\nandishing a weapon is criminal and then what do u expect?

  • aiazmir - 2012-08-17 19:14

    Methinks me smells a rat. The stench carries on the wind. The stench is saying, "This is as a result of disunity within the ANC. Double dealing, so that a favourable climate can be created to oust Zuma at Mangaung." The stench of ANC double dealings is pervasive, but perhaps Zuma will be as "smart" as PW Botha and create a "third force" element, so that he can go after, and eliminate, his political opponents, but then again he may not be so "smart". One is unsure these days of who in the ANC is "for" or "against" anything, but be sure history will reveal it.

  • simon.mwando - 2012-08-18 06:15

    Stop e crap bastard! U hav gt blood on yo hands,jus wndering when a u goin to b arrested.its all bcoz o u

  • pablo.chavez.9081 - 2012-08-18 07:40

    75% salary increase? Where have you ever had of that? F..k off!!

  • nico.dejongh.90 - 2012-08-18 11:05

    Money to feed their children. More kids, more money - this African mentality is suicidal. A genetic flaw or is hunter/killer instinct still part of 'modern' traditions. Yea - blame the evil tookalosh.

  • winifred.watson.9 - 2012-08-18 18:35

    Problem Union bosses etc go in and they suck up a wage figure and instead of negotiating with the mine, they start telling their members what the union deems they should be earning. Remember, the union is not the paymaster. So these workers are misled because we have seen it many times that these union bosses have not idea about business and wages. They have been under governments wing for too long now. The ANC have made them to feel superior and they believe they are very powerful. Their idea business must do as they say or else the will bring this country to its knees. What does the ANC do, exactly nothing. Their strikers turn violent burn and trash other peoples property to make a statement, all supported by the union. Yet government says nothing. Now once again the workers have been misinformed and were incited to such a state that they would not listen to anybody. Hence, this chaos erupted. Dont blame the police, blame the strikers for not listening and the ANC for not taking action earlier. Violence begets violence.

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