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
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
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.