7 February 2013

South Africa: Num Denies Marikana Provocation

Rustenburg — The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) denied on Thursday that it had provoked striking Marikana miners in North West last year.

This was the testimony of NUM president Senzeni Zokwana to the Farlam commission of inquiry, which is holding public hearings on the matter in Rustenburg.

Dali Mpofu, for the miners injured and arrested during the strike at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana last year, asked Zokwana if it was not unwise of the union to not only oppose the strike, but also help miners to work during the strike.

"I can say... what the NUM branch did confirm with our principle. They assisted the willing."

Zokwana said workers all had the same rights and if they did not arrive for work they could be fired. NUM was assisting those who wanted to work.

Mpofu argued strikers would see this as weakening the strike and provocative.

"I don't think... I have to justify the usage of violence from a section of workers. Rock drill operators (RDOs) are a section of workers," Zokwana said.

He said they did not consult with other groups of workers whether they wanted to join the strike. Therefore those workers were still entitled to work.

"It would have been wrong of RDOs to expect other workers to follow suit."

Zokwana said that by the end of the commission it would become clear there was "a third force" behind the strike egging it on.

"Somebody was behind the forest."

Mpofu told Zokwana they would discuss this matter more extensively at a later stage.

Mpofu said he would argue the strikers were provoked by the NUM not only by their assistance to non-strikers, but also when shots were fired at strikers on August 11.

NUM shop stewards allegedly fired at a large group of strikers who marched towards the union offices at Marikana with the intention to burn it down. Two strikers were injured and hospitalised.

Zokwana said the shop stewards were also threatened as the strikers were armed and planned to burn down the building.

"People don't have the right to kill, no matter how provoked they are."

The commission is probing the death of 44 striking mineworkers.

Thirty-four were shot dead and 78 wounded when police opened fire while trying to disperse a group of protesters gathered on a hill near the mine on August 16 last year.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed.

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