15 August 2013

South Africa: Marikana Anniversary Approaches

A fierce inter-union war over South Africa's platinum sector continues to endanger lives, one year after police shot dead 34 striking miners at ... ( Resource: Murder Stalks Marikana, One Year After Bloodbath )

Johannesburg — Two days before the one-year anniversary of the Marikana shooting, a key mining union received recognition from platinum miner Lonmin.

Also on Wednesday, politicians announced an initiative to bring stability to the mining sector.

"We must pray for the families of all who lost their lives in Marikana, before and after the 16th of August. We must all resolve to do everything possible to prevent a repeat of similar incidents," President Jacob Zuma said in a statement.

A forum involving police, mining companies, trade unions, and government departments was launched in Rustenburg in the North West, aimed at restoring peace and stability in the country's mining industry.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the Marikana tragedy represented a watershed in the country's history.

"Following the incident we consistently reiterated a message that as government we were deeply saddened by the tragic incidents that led to the untimely deaths of many breadwinners, fathers, brothers, uncles and loved ones," he said.

Lonmin and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) announced on Wednesday they had signed an agreement recognising the trade union as having majority representation at the company.

On the same day, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry investigating the Marikana deaths was postponed.

Friday marks a year since 34 people, almost all miners, were shot dead in a clash with police, at Lonmin's Marikana mine in the North West.

Ten people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed in the preceding week.

Zuma said that an important step in stabilising the mining sector was to ensure peace prevailed.

"Workers and managers must go to work without fear that anyone would harm them," he said.

"Workers must be free to exercise their Constitutional right to join any trade union of their choice, to declare disputes, to strike and to engage in any form of peaceful protest."

He said government would act "decisively" to enforce the rule of law.

"In this regard, the Mine Crime Combating Forum was launched today [Wednesday]..."

At the launch national police commissioner Riah Phiyega said the situation in Marikana remained fragile.

"People are killed in broad daylight in Marikana. I'm sure there are witnesses but to date no one has come forward with information."

Phiyega said 13 cases involving murders in Marikana had been brought to court. Some had been postponed due to the sitting of the Farlam Commission.

She said murders in Marikana should not be linked to rivalry between Amcu and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

Lonmin CEO Ben Magara said he was "delighted" by the employee recognition agreement, signed with Amcu at a briefing in Johannesburg.

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa, said that without co-operation both parties were losers.

Magara said Lonmin had discussed the agreement with NUM, which was previously the majority union at the company.

In July, an application by NUM to stop Lonmin from de-recognising it as the majority union was struck off the roll by the Labour Court in Johannesburg.

Mathunjwa said there should not be an expectation of violence between the unions because of the agreement. He said Amcu shop stewards had not yet taken office.

Lonmin and Amcu said it was significant that their agreement was being signed so close to the anniversary of the shooting at Lonmin's Marikana mine last year.

Magara said that after discussions with the organising committee appointed by the workers to oversee the commemoration, an agreement was reached that employees would be allowed to attend. However it would count as an unpaid working day.

Lawyer Dali Mpofu, who acted for the miners arrested and injured during the incident, said at the briefing that workers agreed to take the day as unpaid.

Retired judge Ian Farlam, who headed the commission into the shooting said proceedings would continue on Monday.

Speaking before the postponement was decided on, Farlam said the decision on funding for the lawyers representing the injured and arrested miners could be made soon.

Mpofu has taken the State to the Constitutional Court, asking that it pay for his legal team. He asked for the postponement pending the court's decision.

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