The trade union Solidarity today said that the violent protests at Lonmin’s Marikana mine was not only due to a wage dispute between rock drill operators and their employer. In the interim, Solidarity has made suggestions to the commission of enquiry who are investigating the tragedy at Lonmin.
According to Gideon du Plessis, deputy general secretary of Solidarity, a large number of the nearly 3 000 protesters were retrenched workers of Lonmin and Impala Platinum (Implats), colleagues of rock drill operators in other work categories and unemployed members of the community. “It is clear that many of the protesting workers were not aggrieved rock drill operators, but that opportunists exploited the strike. This resulted in crime. There is a misconception that the dispute mainly revolves around underpaid rock drill operators who reportedly only earn R4 000 a month. The adjusted total cost package of a Lonmin rock drill operator is approximately R10 500 a month, excluding bonuses. In addition, the rock drill operators and their representative union, Amcu, did not submit written demands nor declare a wage dispute, which is the norm in a process of collective bargaining. The protestors' violent behaviour, the brutal murders of innocent people and the use of witch doctors and traditional murder weapons rather indicate a political motivation and opportunistic positioning instead of an attempt to negotiate a solution,” said Du Plessis.
Solidarity has also made the following recommendations to the commission of inquiry appointed by President Jacob Zuma to determine what led to the Lonmin tragedy:
· The commission must determine which institutions or individuals are responsible for inciting employees to violence and supplying them with weapons.
· The trade union Amcu's pattern of violence must also be investigated by the commission. In the past year Amcu has been involved in various strikes that resulted in violence including Lonmin, Implats, Aquarius’s Kwezi shaft at Kroondal and its Everest mine near Lydenburg.
· According to Solidarity, the commission should also investigate the murders committed before Thursday’s tragedy.
Due to the explosive situation, Solidarity asked Lonmin to investigate individual cases with the police rather than dismissing workers since many of the workers were intimidated. “Lonmin must be supported in order to prevent the anarchy that lately prevailed at Lonmin spilling over to other mines,” said Du Plessis.