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COSATU Today  |  COSATU Press Statements

ANC Alliance Statement on the Situation at the Lonmin Marikana Platinum Mines

7 September 2012

The Alliance Secretariat met on 6 September 2012 in a special meeting to discuss the unfolding situation following the tragic events at the Lonmin Marikana Platinum Mines.

The Alliance received a detailed briefing from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on the build-up to the events of the 16th, the actual unfolding of the protest action and resultant shooting and the follow-up to this tragedy. The meeting also received briefings from the various Alliance partners on the activities of our organisations in the Rustenburg area.

The Alliance reaffirmed their support for the appointment and the work of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry and hopes that all parties will provide as much information as is humanly possible. It is important to piece together all information to come up with a comprehensive picture.

Up till now, not sufficient information has been in the public domain about the role of the various companies and employers in the area in fanning up conflict between the unions and thus, conflict amongst the workers themselves. This situation cannot be isolated from the developments that surrounded the strike in Impala Platinum nor can it be seen as a new development without looking at what happened during the previous strike at the same mine a few months ago. During the last strike, the workforce was dismissed and selectively re-employed on lesser conditions than before the strike. It is therefore our considered view that employers have an interest in fanning this conflict to reverse the gains achieved by workers over a long period of time. The fact that the platinum industry has refused to be part of centralised bargaining either as the platinum industry or the mining industry broadly tells the story of the power and belief in divide and rule.

Initially this has been projected as a conflict between two rival unions with a narrative that the NUM, by virtue of being a COSATU union, is cooperating with the employers. The unfortunate events of the 16th of August replaced that narrative with another one of an authoritarian state. This labelling of both the NUM and the state is part of a broader theme of delegitimising the liberation movement in its broad sense. There has been a deafening silence about warlordism and intimidation taking place in the informal settlements.

The invasion of the space by outside forces may mark the beginning of a serious programme of destabilisation. Agitating workers and giving them false promises is dangerous and may take long time to correct. The replacement of unions with committees formed around issues has a long-term implication for the industry and for the collective bargaining dispensation in the country.

We are confident that the Commission of Inquiry will dig deep into all these aspects of the conflict and we took note of the double-talk by the opposition parties who in the past have consistently condemned COSATU unions for demanding high wage increases and all of a sudden condemn the same unions for low wages and bad conditions. We see this as opportunism in action.

The Alliance committed itself to work with all the stakeholders and communities to restore normality to the area. The Alliance commends the ongoing, positive role played by the NUM in fighting for the improvement of the working conditions of mineworkers and restoring their dignity as human beings. The Alliance also reasserts the importance of unity and working together to protect the rights of all South Africans and, especially, the poor and the vulnerable.

Issued by:
African National Congress
South African Communist Party
Congress of South African Trade Unions