COSATU condemns attacks on workers in Rustenburg

30 October 2012

The Congress of South African Trade salutes all its members, alliance partners and North West community members, who marched and rallied in their thousands in Rustenburg on 27 October 2012 in a mass demonstration to demand:

That the mining companies immediately and unconditionally reinstate all mine workers who have been dismissed and withdraw all threats to dismiss workers, The defence of the National Union of Mineworkers in particular, and the trade union movement in general, from attacks by the mining companies and the capitalist class, A living wage and improved working and living conditions for all workers, to take them out of poverty,

Full support to the workers at Sun City and Chubby Chick who are fighting for their rights and better pay and conditions, An end to corruption and the arrest and prosecution of all those who are implicated, support for whistle-blowers, and the release of the SIU report following the investigation of the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in the 23 municipalities in the province in 2009 and the forensic report of the 6 departments investigated by the former Premier Maureen Modiselle.

The immediate banning of labour brokers,

A growth path which emphases the development of the rural economy and strengthens manufacturing and agro-processing,

That all municipalities make sure that basic services are accessible to the communities all the time,

That government take back all the services outsourced to private companies and stop further tendering and privatisation,

That the state develops in-house capacity to provide essential services and stops using consultants but directly employ engineers, town and regional planners, architects etc.

A youth program which will include the provisioning of recreational facilities in all our communities.

COSATU is confident that these demands are supported by all the workers and poor communities in the North West and the whole country.

The federation was however angered by the conduct of a group of around 300 people in the Marikana Support Campaign (MSC) who attempted to violently disrupt the workers rally. Although claiming to be in the stadium to support COSATU this was belied by their actions.

They first started by attempting to disrupt the march, and when they failed they opted to occupy the stadium and began burning NUM and COSATU T-shirts and chasing away or assaulting anyone wearing a red T-shirt.

Joster Maboa, a full-time NUM shop steward at Impala Services Branch, was assaulted at the stadium before the marchers arrived. He has since been discharged from hospital. Billy Zulu, a CEPPWAWU national organiser was assaulted for wearing a red T shirt, and was saved from more serious injury by the bold action of media photographers, to whom we express our profound thanks.

Two hours later, when the march from the CBD arrived at the stadium, having been delayed because of the attacks on our members, many of those who had been mobilised to disrupt the event rushed towards the 2000 strong column of marchers. It was at this point that one member of the group, Mr Rehad Desai, had his shirt and trousers removed by some of our members. We deeply regret this incident, but it must be pointed out that he was not harmed.

In the only other incident involving our members, a man who made provocative and threatening statements inside the stadium was nearly assaulted, but was protected and safely escorted out of the stadium by two SAMWU members, whose disciplined intervention we salute. This is in contrast our two members who were seriously assaulted, the countless others who were forced to remove their t-shirts, the burning of t-shirts and posters, as well as the stoning of kombis on their way to the stadium, which were forced to turn back.

We are in no doubt that the intention of the leaders of this group was to instigate an attack on us. They never contacted us before the march and continued to issue statements accusing COSATU of supporting a union that they allege has failed workers and is in alliance with a party that has failed workers, a clear call for COSATU to stop supporting its affiliate, the NUM, and break the tripartite alliance, in contradiction of our congress resolutions.

The suggestion by some commentators that they were at the stadium to peacefully listen to COSATU is either naive or deliberately misleading, or both.

The federation will never be intimidated by any organisation which wants to declare any no-go areas for workers. We are calling on the mine-workers’ strike committees, if they are leaders, to exercise leadership and not instigate their followers to provoke workers against other workers and stage violent confrontations.

COSATU also reiterates its outrage of the murder of 27 NUM members, 15 of whom are shop stewards, numerous assaults and repeated threats. We demand that these strike committee leaders unequivocally condemn these actions and help bring the perpetrators to justice. After the rally, Mayoyo Khoza, a worker from Swaziland, who was wearing an NUM t-shirt, was stabbed and killed at Sondela near Rustenburg.

We call on workers to refuse to be misled by capitalists and political opportunists who want to strengthen their domination of our economy by hoodwinking workers into subverting our democracy and trying to destroy the trade unions.

The federation convened the march and rally for all workers, not just the NUM. It was a workers’ rally which included NUM as one of its affiliates of and we will not run away from defending and supporting our affiliates because some capitalists and opportunists want to use workers for their political advantage.

COSATU’s battle is against the mining bosses and the capitalist system – not our fellow workers! We appeal to all workers in Rustenburg and across the country to cease all violent attacks against workers, and, whatever their disagreements, to join us in working together to transform the lives of all workers and all the poor people of South Africa.

We repeat the call made by Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi at the rally for a united single trade union Federation made up of one united union in every sector or industry.

The federation also condemns the conduct of the police in Rustenburg. Having failed to stop people gathering without permission in a public place, they then made no attempt to negotiate with them, broker a meeting between them and the organisers of the COSATU march, or form a human barrier between the two groups, but resorted to the use of teargas and rubber bullets.

One of their victims was SAMWU member, Jacob Makhobosi, from Maquassi Municipality, who was shot in the back with rubber bullets, as he got off a taxi at the start of the rally.

This is further evidence, already seen at Marikana on 16 August, of the SAPS’s abysmal lack of training in crowd control and forward-planning. This was not a large crowd and was not apparently armed. It should have been possible to disperse them peacefully, without the risk of loss of life.

We wish all members who were injured during the day a speedy recovery. We will continue our struggle to unite all workers in South Africa against a common enemy – capitalism.

Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson) Congress of South African Trade Unions 110 Jorissen Cnr Simmonds Street Braamfontein 2017

Tel: +27 11 339-4911 or
Direct: +27 10 219-1339
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