PRES­SURE IS ON PO­LICE

The mur­ders of Amcu mem­bers around Rusten­burg seem to have a very dif­fer­ent set of mo­tives from the killings be­fore Marikana, but they still have the po­ten­tial to dis­rupt labour sta­bil­ity

Financial Mail - - FEATURE - Char­lotte Mathews math­ewsc@fm.co.za

The method and tim­ing of the re­cent mur­ders of six mem­bers of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Minework­ers & Con­struc­tion Union (Amcu) in the Rusten­burg area raise two pos­si­bil­i­ties, nei­ther of which sug­gests a deeper prob­lem with labour re­la­tions yet.

But min­ing bosses are on edge. If the po­lice drag their heels in find­ing the per­pe­tra­tors, ten­sions be­tween Amcu and the Na­tional Union of Minework­ers (NUM) could resur­face. Last week a sin­gle ar­rest was made.

Be­tween 2012 and 2014 plat­inum mines around Rusten­burg were shaken by vi­o­lence as Amcu started to in­crease its mem­ber­ship at the ex­pense of the NUM. There were mur­ders of ri­vals and work stop­pages, lead­ing to the meet­ing at Marikana in Au­gust 2012 when po­lice shot and killed 34 strik­ing minework­ers. A few months later, Amcu mem­bers em­barked on a five-month strike for higher wages.

In the past three years Amcu has be­come a more es­tab­lished union at the same time as plat­inum mines, un­der threat from weak prices and ris­ing costs, have re­trenched thou­sands of work­ers.

The re­cent mur­ders, which Amcu pres­i­dent Joseph Mathun­jwa de­scribes as pro­fes­sional hits, do not sug­gest in­ter-union ri­valry. There are nu­mer­ous other the­o­ries, in­clud­ing tribal hos­til­i­ties or ri­valry for union po­si­tions that al­low of­fice-hold­ers to earn back­han­ders from con­trol­ling re­cruit­ment or ac­cess to taxi busi­ness. But re­cruit­ment scams — in which des­per­ate peo­ple pay bribes to get jobs — hap­pen all over SA and trib­al­ism is less of an is­sue on the mines than it was 20 to 30 years ago.

The killings have erupted at the same time as the trial of minework­ers charged with sev­eral mur­ders in the weeks be­fore Marikana. They also co­in­cide with Amcu’s first elec­tions at branch level to re­place shop stew­ards who as­sumed of­fice in 2013/2014.

A Rusten­burg source, who could not be named, says the mo­tive for these mur­ders is to si­lence those who could give ev­i­dence against the or­gan­is­ers of the killings that took place just be­fore Marikana. Sev­eral men were pre­par­ing to turn state wit­ness and pro­vide doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence, but they have fled for their lives since the re­cent spate of mur­ders be­gan.

This mo­tive is borne out by the fact that one of the re­cent vic­tims was mineworker Tho­lakele Dlunga who, with 16 others, was charged with the deaths of two po­lice­men, two Lon­min se­cu­rity of­fi­cers and nine other minework­ers in 2012.

NUM spokesman Livhuwani Mamm­buru says the union dis­tances it­self from the killings, which it be­lieves are the re­sult of in­fight­ing within Amcu be­cause it has not democra­tised its struc­tures. The NUM does not want to be blamed. It wants the po­lice to in­ves­ti­gate the mat­ter and bring the per­pe­tra­tors to jus­tice.

Crispen Chin­guno, a lec­turer and re­search fel­low at Wits Univer­sity, says vi­o­lence on the plat­inum belt is not new, but what is spe­cific to these killings is that they ap­pear to re­flect a cri­sis within Amcu.

“Amcu has a pop­ulist and charis­matic lead­er­ship which does not con­form to the demo­cratic tra­di­tion of trade union move­ments,” he says. “It may be there is con­tes­ta­tion within the union for shop-ste­ward po­si­tions.”

Jo­han Theron, group ex­ec­u­tive of cor­po­rate re­la­tions at Im­pala Plat­inum, says the killings are of great con­cern be­cause if not re­solved, they could es­ca­late and ul­ti­mately desta­bilise labour re­la­tions in the re­gion.

Theron says labour re­la­tions around Rusten­burg are much bet­ter than they were in 2012 to 2014. The peo­ple who led Amcu at that time be­came shop stew­ards. They have now reached the end of their term in of­fice. At Im­plats op­er­a­tions, elec­tions of new shop stew­ards were re­cently con­ducted suc­cess­fully with­out in­ci­dent. Amcu over­saw the elec­tions and mostly new lead­ers were elected.

“This is not nec­es­sar­ily un­usual or sur­pris­ing, given how labour re­la­tions have nor­malised and ma­tured over time,” Theron says. “Amcu would not be able to hold na­tional elec­tions un­til this process is con­cluded with all branch and re­gional struc­tures com­plet­ing the process.”

Lon­min CEO Ben Ma­gara says Lon­min is deeply con­cerned about the vi­o­lence, which could undo its ef­forts to es­tab­lish a sound rap­port with its unions and em­ploy­ees.

Wendy Tlou, Lon­min group head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, says elec­tions of

Amcu shop stew­ards have not yet taken place at Lon­min and it is not clear when they will.

She says Lon­min is wait­ing for po­lice feed­back on what is be­hind the shoot­ings and is not in a po­si­tion to spec­u­late on the mo­tives.

Chin­guno doubts whether these ri­val­ries will lead to a gen­eral strike sim­i­lar to 2014’s, but he be­lieves the mine bosses could help to pro­mote demo­cratic pro­cesses at dif­fer­ent lev­els within the unions.

Mathun­jwa has called on the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity to look into the mur­ders and says Amcu has en­gaged pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tor Paul O’sul­li­van. O’sul­li­van told a ra­dio sta­tion he would sup­port, not du­pli­cate, work be­ing done by the po­lice and look into whether the killings are sim­i­lar in mo­tive to those be­fore and af­ter the Marikana shoot­ings.

The re­cent mur­ders do not sug­gest in­ter-union ri­valry. Other the­o­ries for them in­clude tribal hos­til­i­ties or ri­valry for union po­si­tions

123Rf/vladimirochakovsky

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