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Issue #1691      July 1, 2015

Mine bosses and AMCU “share Marikana blame”

South African miners’ union NUM welcomed a report last week into the killing of 44 people at the Marikana mine three years ago. Violence began at the platinum mine in what is now Bokone Bophirima province on August 11, 2012 when owner Lonmin allowed representatives of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) onto the premises to recruit in opposition to the well-established NUM.

Events culminated in a hilltop Amcu protest on August 16, at which a group of men attacked police with spears and clubs. The police fired on the attackers, killing 34 and wounding 78.

Summarising the report, President Jacob Zuma was critical of both Lonmin and AMCU members. “They sang provocative songs and made inflammatory remarks, which tended to aggravate an already volatile situation,” he said.

The NUM welcomed the report’s agreement with its testimony that the strike was characterised by high levels of violence and intimidation.

Four miners, two security guards and two police officers were killed over the course of the week prior to the hilltop battle. The dispute began when Lonmin unilaterally raised salaries of one grade of workers. Miners’ wages have for decades been negotiated nationally between the NUM and the Chamber of Mines.

AMCU exploited the grievance to poach members from the NUM and foment an unofficial strike on August 9, allowing the company to sack workers.

The report criticised Lonmin for allowing the situation to escalate and not ensuring the safety of its employees, but also blamed AMCU for making inflammatory remarks and failing to control its members.

However, Mr Zuma also criticised the NUM.

“The NUM wrongly advised rock-drill operators that no negotiations with Lonmin were possible until the end of the two-year wage agreement,” he said.

Since the tragedy, NUM shop stewards and members have been beaten, murdered and burnt out of their homes.

The release of the report has overshadowed celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Charter, the guiding document for the anti-apartheid Congress movement.

Speaking at a celebration of the anniversary in Kliptown, Mr Zuma said that never again should any wage or political dispute “degenerate into such a shocking loss of life.”

And in a clear snipe at ANC breakaway, the Economic Freedom Fighters, he urged political parties not to use the tragedy for “political posturing”.

Morning Star

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