South Africa: Marikana Wage Talks Impossible - NUM

A survivor of last year's Marikana tragedy had a grilling at the Commission of Inquiry today. Lonmin - rock drill operator, Si-phete Phasha, was ... ( Resource: A Survivor of Last Year's Marikana Tragedy Grilled at Commission

Rustenburg — Wage talks between strikers at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana and the NUM had been impossible, the Farlam commission of inquiry heard on Thursday.

"You can only get a mandate from people who have trust in you," National Union of Mineworkers' (NUM) president Senzeni Zokwana told the hearing at the Rustenburg civic centre.

He said the strikers had not trusted the union and were violent.

"There was no way NUM could get such a mandate."

Karel Tip, for the NUM, asked Zokwana how important a mandate was in wage negotiations.

"Before a union can engage an employer in any form of negotiation you need a mandate," he said.

Zokwana felt it had been impossible to get one at Marikana because the strikers were too aggressive and had not been willing to talk to shop stewards.

Tip asked if it had been possible to initiate bargaining with Lonmin without a mandate from the rock drillers before the shooting at Marikana on August 16.

"It was impossible. You can only negotiate for people who believe you are their agent. In negotiations you need a mandate to go to whoever you are negotiating with."

He said events from August 10 onwards, when shop stewards were threatened, and later killed, and the NUM office almost attacked, showed the strikers did not want the union.

"In my view it was no longer a situation where you needed negotiators.

You needed trained persons to restore law and order."

Zokwana said he arrived at Marikana on August 12 and heard that strikers en route to the NUM's offices had killed two Lonmin security guards.

He also said that on August 15 he went to the hill where the strikers had gathered to address them from a police Nyala. While he was there he heard them singing about him and the NUM.

"The song was 'How can we kill NUM? We hate NUM. How can we kill Zokwana?," he said.

"It shocked me. I have known mineworkers for years and I have never known such an aggressive threat."

He said that while they were singing, the group banged their weapons together.

"In dealing with faction fights I have not come across a group of workers so armed, so threatening."

Tip asked how the experience affected him.

"I was so concerned about this threatening attitude of strikers. I was so concerned about the safety of other people to the extent that the following day, when I woke up, that I could not talk. My voice was gone."

Tip asked what effect seeing photographs of the murdered security guards during the commission had on him.

"The viciousness, cruelty I saw in those films shocked me and I could not understand how human beings can be so cruel to kill somebody. But beyond killing, they deface him in the manner those pictures showed."

The commission is probing the deaths of 44 people at Lonmin's Marikana mine in August 2012.

On August 16, 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 were wounded when police opened fire while trying to disperse a group gathered on a hill near the mine. In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were hacked to death.

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