Eight National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) shop stewards have been suspended for alleged union membership fraud, platinum mining giant Lonmin has said.
“Lonmin has suspended eight employees following investigations into allegations of membership fraud. Three of them are currently in the middle of disciplinary hearings, while the remaining five face hearings this week,” said spokesperson Sue Lindsell-Steward.
The shop stewards allegedly falsified stop orders to make it seem members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) had left their union and joined the NUM.
The company said it had been established that about 200 stop orders were falsified in this way and submitted to Lonmin’s human resources department.
The effect of the fraud would have been to relay membership fees due to Amcu to the NUM, while also helping the NUM regain its representation.
The NUM has until July 16 to retain its status as a majority union, or vacate union offices at shaft level.
The offices were provided by the company to the dominant union, while other unions were provided with only one central office to service their members.
Amcu ousted the NUM as the majority union after a wildcat strike in Marikana, North West, last year, commanding 70% of unskilled workers and machine operators as members.
Rivalry between the two unions contributed to the deaths of at least 44 people in Marikana in August last year.
NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said on Tuesday the company had the right to discipline anyone alleged to have committed fraud.
“We hope the charges they face are true and not made-up charges.”
He said it was not correct that union leaders had attempted to poach Amcu members.
“You cannot cook membership.”
The union had recruited 800 members, although conditions were not conducive for recruitment at Rustenburg mines.
“You cannot recruit when there is violence and intimidation.”
Since the wildcat strike in Marikana last year, at least 20 NUM members had been killed, Seshoka said.
During a two-day strike in May, Amcu members demanded that the NUM offices be shut down and accused the union of membership fraud.
The strike followed the death of Amcu regional leader Mawethu Steven.
He was shot dead at a tavern in Photsaneng on May 11, on the same day twin brothers Andile and Ayanda Menzi (24) were shot at a shack in Wonderkop. One died at the scene and the other died in hospital.
An NUM shop steward was shot dead and another wounded in Wonderkop on Monday.
Police shot dead 34 striking mine workers on August 16. Ten people, including two police officers, were killed in the unrest during the preceding week.
Workers were on strike demanding a monthly salary of R12 500. The strike ended in September.
The killings of union leaders in the area has been linked to rivalry between the two unions.
North West Premier Thandi Modise has called on Amcu and the NUM to denounce violence and commit themselves to peaceful coexistence at Lonmin and other mines around Rustenburg.
“There is no place for strong-arm tactics and the use of violence in our labour relation regime that allows freedom of association,” she said.
Modise called on workers to remain calm and help police in their investigations to unmask those behind the recent spate of violence.
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