NUM,Amcu ri­valry goes be­yond Marikana graves

Ten wid­ows left out in cold as ten­sions lead­ing to blood­shed con­tinue

The Sunday Independent - - FEATURES - Di­neo Faku

TEN­SIONS be­tween the Na­tional Union of Minework­ers (NUM) and the As­so­ci­a­tion of Minework­ers and Con­struc­tion Union (Amcu) have con­tin­ued to stalk wid­ows of the 44 vic­tims killed dur­ing the Marikana mas­sacre be­yond their hus­bands’ graves.

The wid­ows of the 10 men who were killed in the week pre­ced­ing the mas­sacre say they re­main trapped in a cy­cle of pain as the un­der­ly­ing ten­sions which led to the blood­shed con­tinue.

The women say the union ri­valry that led to the deaths has fil­tered down to them five years af­ter the mas­sacre. Some and other fam­ily mem­bers have been ap­pointed by Lon­min in var­i­ous roles and the plat­inum pro­ducer is also pay­ing for their chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion.

“Ev­ery­body is talk­ing about the 34 minework­ers who were killed on Au­gust 16, the very same 34 that were re­spon­si­ble for the killing of the 10 be­fore the mas­sacre,” says a widow who spoke to Busi­ness Re­port on con­di­tion of anonymity.

“Now they want a hol­i­day, for what? You can­not com­pare Marikana with June 16 be­cause those peo­ple were fight­ing with one spirit and for a com­mon cause.”

The widow is re­fer­ring to a call by EFF leader Julius Malema last week for Au­gust 16 to be de­clared a na­tional hol­i­day.

More than 44 peo­ple were killed in mid-Au­gust 2012 in a vi­o­lent un­pro­tected strike sparked by a de­mand for Lon­min, the world’s third largest plat­inum pro­ducer, to pay a R12 500 monthly salary.

Among them were po­lice of­fi­cers, se­cu­rity guards and Lon­min em­ploy­ees, whose wives feel that their hus­bands’ deaths are not given the same promi­nence that the 34 who died in the po­lice shootout re­ceive.

There is fear of vic­tim­i­sa­tion and reprisals in the area so all the wid­ows speak on con­di­tion of anonymity.

One of the wid­ows says her A truck drives through the Lon­min mine at Marikana. hus­band was a NUM mem­ber but the union has dis­tanced it­self from them.

“Why have we been thrown away like dogs? We are not treated equally,” she says.

“The NUM has dis­tanced it­self from us; they tell us they are try­ing to help us but have done noth­ing for us. We do not feel safe at work and in the hos­tels.”

Vi­o­lence con­tin­ues un­abated in Marikana. In the past few days alone, two peo­ple were killed in what many call con­tin­u­ing union ri­valry.

One was said to have left one union to join the other.

Amcu says its lead­er­ship is un­der siege and is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing wide-rang­ing at­tacks in the plat­inum belt, while NUM blames Amcu for gun­ning down its mem­ber af­ter the Marikana mas­sacre com­mem­o­ra­tion.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional met some of the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies at the Nka­neng in­for­mal set­tle­ment, near Lon­min’s Roland shaft, where they still live in in­ad­e­quate hous­ing and squalid con­di­tions.

In a re­port, Smoke and Mir­rors: Lon­min’s fail­ure to ad­dress hous­ing con­di­tions at Marikana, the hu­man rights body re­vealed how the com­pany that owns the mine, UK-based Lon­min, had com­mit­ted to con­struct­ing 5 500 houses for work­ers by 2011 un­der its 2006 So­cial and Labour Plan.

The ap­palling hous­ing con­di­tions faced by Lon­min staff, along with grievances over low pay, were among the main driv­ers of the strike.

Five years later, peo­ple still face the same squalid con­di­tions to­gether, even though the union ri­valry still di­vides their shared pain. But each side con­tin­ues to view the other with sus­pi­cion.

There are claims that Amcu paid wid­ows of the 34 minework­ers R12 500 for Christ­mas while the oth­ers were left to fend for them­selves.

The hus­bands of the ma­jor­ity of the wid­ows who were killed prior to Au­gust 16 were mem­bers of the NUM, which was a ma­jor­ity union at the time with a mem­ber­ship of 90 000. Amcu was not im­me­di­ately avail­able for com­ment.

But one of the widow blames Amcu for di­vid­ing them and seg­re­gat­ing the 34 wid­ows from the 10 but com­mends Lon­min for em­brac­ing the wid­ows equally.

“We all lost our loved ones. We as wid­ows we were not there. We do not know what hap­pened. Why are they seg­re­gat­ing us? We are tired of di­vi­sions,” a widow who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity said.

“Amcu has di­vided us as wid­ows. Amcu pres­i­dent Joseph Mathun­jwa was sup­posed to take us all un­der his wing as wid­ows, but he has sin­gled us out,” she said.

The NUM’s head of safety Eric Gcil­it­shana says the union mem­ber­ship at Lon­min has de­clined to about 30 000 mem­bers, los­ing mem­ber­ship to Amcu in 2012 which is now the ma­jor­ity union and has ex­clu­sive recog­ni­tion rights.

Gcil­it­shana says it has not been easy for the NUM af­ter be­ing dis­lodged.

“There are in­ter­nal dis­cus­sions on what we can do for wid­ows. We have been dis­lodged and it is not easy to gain lost ground.

“The ten­sion is not only amid wid­ows but our mem­bers have moved out of hos­tels due to in­tim­i­da­tion.”

Last week, Amcu led thou­sands of peo­ple in­clud­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties in the an­nual com­mem­o­ra­tion of the Marikana mas­sacre at the kop­pie, how­ever, the 10 wid­ows did not at­tend as they do not feel wel­come at Amcu events.

They chose in­stead to at­tend a ser­vice by Lon­min.

“When Lon­min organises com­mem­o­ra­tion events, Mathun­jwa takes his 34 wid­ows away to Pre­to­ria,” the widow says. “Lon­min calls all stake­hold­ers to be united but ten­sions con­tinue.”

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