23 January 2013

South Africa: NUM Marikana Witness Testifies

Photo: Werner Beukes/SAPA
Police on standby if violence erupts at Lonmin's troubled Marikana mine in the North West, Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Rustenburg — The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) called its first witness to testify at the Farlam Commission of Inquiry in Rustenburg on Wednesday.

Karel Tip, for the NUM, called Erick Gcilitshana, who is the union's health and safety national secretary, and a Lonmin employee.

He was also the chief negotiator during the mineworkers' strike at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana, North West, where 34 workers were killed last year.

"I started [as a negotiator] in 2005. [I became the chief negotiator] in 2007," he told the commission.

Gcilitshana had been working in mines since December 1985 and joined NUM in 1987.

Tip was questioning him on wage strikes at Impala Platinum's mines in 2011 and the impact this had on the relationship between workers and the NUM.

Gcilitshana said relations had soured in the days leading up to the strike, as a result of a decision by Implats to give some workers increases outside a signed bargaining agreement.

The commission is probing the deaths of 44 people during an unprotected strike at the mine.

Thirty-four striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 wounded when police opened fire while trying to disperse a group gathered on a hill near the mine on August 16. In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were hacked to death.

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