South Africa: Mathunjwa - "The Truth and the Cause of the Killings"

In South Africa, President Zuma's government pulled out of a memorial ceremony marking the first anniversary of the police killings at Lonmin's Marikana mine in which 34 workers died.

Union leader Joseph Mathunjwa was among those who did attend.

DW: What is your response to the government's decision not to participate in the commemorations?

Joseph Mathunjwa: One has to say it is their democratic right to choose not to come but, quite honestly, they should have sent someone as a government. They should have been above any unions' politics and shown leadership

Have conditions for the miners improved over the last 12 months?

If you ask whether the conditions of employment for workers over the last 19 years of democratic rule have improved, the answer is no, so I think it would be quite opportunistic to suggest that there can be drastic changes in 12 months. For example, who owns the means of production, who controls the minerals of the country? Yes, the government is a custodian, but who are the beneficiaries of these minerals? These minerals should bring benefit to the entire people of the country. Until such time that this is addressed, we will have to live with this thing. These workers were killed for fighting for a better living, better conditions of employment, a living wage and they decided to massacre them. That means the struggle will continue.

AMCU was formally recognized as a major union by the platinum giant Lonmin on Wednesday. How big a victory is this for your organization?

It is a victory for the workers who happen to be members of AMCU, that is their voice of that has been recognized at the mine. And therefore all their issues and grievances will be dealt with formally rather than as a gentlemen's agreement, so everything you engage on can be put down in writing. When you write to your employer for a meeting, he'll realize that you are a formal stakeholder within his company.

But the violence is continuing and the rivalries are continuing. What is AMCU doing to end its rivalry with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM)?

I think that's a question that you need to put to them, that as a government what are they doing to eradicate or to address the issue of violence in mining. This violence isn't just union-only violence. Look at the country itself! Our country is engulfed by violence that you cannot believe and maybe criminal elements are taking advantage of the difference of situations between the unions

What are you expecting to emerge from the commission of inquiry into the killings that was set up by President Zuma last September?

The truth and the cause of the killings and the reason why these workers were killed and who was behind the whole thing - and also for the victims to be compensated.

As far as you are aware, what has been done to help the families of the 34 miners who died?

Lonmin has made an undertaking that they will see to it that their children attend school, that their fees are paid until they finish university level which we hope they do. The Lonmin CEO did indeed confirm again that they, Lonmin, will continue with support, but we still want to sit down with them, because there are issues that we discussed with them after the massacre before this CEO was appointed that we think we need to put before him.

Joseph Mathunjwa is President of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).

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