Peace will continue to elude Rustenburg’s troubled platinum belt until government, police and Lonmin management treat all workers fairly in their dealings with union rivals, according to Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) branch secretary Bob Ndude.
At an Amcu leadership meeting at Wonderkop Stadium on Wednesday, it emerged that the union intends to apply pressure on Lonmin to kick the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) out of its offices at the mine.
Amcu will, it says, write a letter to Lonmin management by Wednesday next week, giving them 48 hours to have the NUM vacated as it is no longer the majority union. Amcu says wage negotiations can begin the moment the NUM has left its offices.
The union also discussed the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) case it won that allows its members to go on protected strike. It says it won’t use this victory right away, but will implement it next week once the NUM matter has been addressed.
NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka responded by saying the union would vacate its Lonmin office on July 16, as per a high court ruling on the matter.
The standoff marks another week of violence at the mine.
Ndude, central to the peace and wage negotiations that preceded the deaths of 34 mine workers last August, spoke to City Press while overseeing preparations for a cleansing ceremony that will take place on Friday at the infamous koppie where the men were gunned down.
The cleansing ceremony will be followed by a memorial service on August 16 to mark the anniversary of the shooting.
He spoke of relentless police raids that have angered locals, who claim they are being targeted because they belong to Amcu.
“Fairness and truth are the things that are missing in Marikana … You can’t hide from the truth. And the truth is that we can’t see an end in sight to this violence until the NUM vacates its offices,” he said as a bulldozer pushed aside rubble and dirt to prepare for the tents that will be erected for the ceremony.
“The only thing that can calm the situation is if the police don’t take sides like they are doing right now.”
Like many workers who spoke to City Press, Ndude wants peace, but says it is impossible if the killings of unionists continue.
“The NUM signed an agreement with Lonmin that says any union that does not have 50% plus one representation of members must vacate its offices. Why is it different now that Amcu is the majority union?” asked Ndude.
The Wonderkop office in dispute is where the NUM’s Rowland Shaft chairman, Mbulelo Mnqetho, was shot on Monday, the fifth person to be assassinated since the shooting last year.
NUM treasurer Patrick Phatswane was also injured in the attack and is in critical condition at an undisclosed hospital.
Ndude confirmed claims made by several mine workers of a raid at a tavern this week in which police officers wore balaclavas while searching for guns.
He said he saw more than 40 police vehicles enter the Never Die tavern in the Nkaneng informal settlement last Friday and fire rubber bullets at revellers “who were merely enjoying their drinks”.
“We don’t sleep in our homes. We don’t sleep in Wonderkop. When you’re sleeping at home at night police come and break down doors,” he said.
But police deny choosing sides. Rustenburg police spokesperson Sabata Mokgwabone said: “If people have any evidence to support these allegations, they should report it to the authorities. We did conduct a raid, but I don’t know if rubber bullets were fired or whether any of our members were wearing balaclavas … We don’t wear balaclavas.”
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