28 January 2013

South Africa: NUM Told Strikers to Work, Inquiry Told

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) told striking Lonmin miners to return to work before the first deaths at Marikana, the Farlam commission of inquiry heard on Monday.

"I stressed that employees who took part in illegal strike action may jeopardise their employment and urged them to think of their families and dependants," branch chairman at Lonmin western platinum mine, William Sethele, wrote in a statement.

Karel Tip, for the NUM, was reading from Sethele's statement at the inquiry in Rustenburg.

On Friday the NUM's chief negotiator during the deadly strike, Erick Gcilitshana, testified the union's attitude towards wage negotiations during the strike, in August last year, was irresponsible.

Gcilitshana was questioned on the union's refusal to engage in wage talks outside set labour structures.

Tebogo Mathibedi, for the police, asked: "As at August 15, 2012 was it NUM's attitude that they would not negotiate outside the labour structures?"

Gcilitshana replied: "Yes, as I recall."

Asked if this was not an irresponsible attitude by the union in view of the fact that 10 people had been killed at that stage, he said: "Yes that's true. That's correct."

Mathibedi asked at what point he realised the union's attitude was irresponsible.

"When the lives of people were lost," Gcilitshana replied.

The commission is probing the deaths of 44 people during an unprotected strike at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana, North West, last year.

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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