JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) - Chamber of Mines of South Africa CEO Bheki Sibiya on Friday urged rivals the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) to set aside their differences and meet with the Mineral Resources Minister in an urgent meeting on Saturday.
The chamber aimed to “implore” Minister Susan Shabangu to allow all affected parties, including AMCU, to participate in peacefully resolving all forms of disagreement.
This followed the cancellation of a meeting arranged between NUM, AMCU and the chamber on Friday, as agreed by all parties, after a clash between police and striking workers ended in the death of dozens of miners.
On Thursday, the week-long, violent illegal strike at platinum producer Lonmin’s Marikana mine culminated in a police shoot out that resulted in the death of 34 striking workers and injured another 78. Ten people died in separate violent clashes earlier in the week.
AMCU has been accusing NUM of “sinister” behaviour and orchestrating the events leading up to the Marikana killings, in conjunction with top government officials, and even Lonmin management. The NUM, on the other hand, slammed AMCU, alleging that the smaller union used underhanded and violent tactics in recruiting new members.
The chamber had hoped to discuss the two unions’ differences, with the aim of reaching an amicable and peaceful resolution, said Sibiya.
Liberum Capital commented that it was unclear how the dispute between NUM and AMCU would pan out. The public nature of the events that have transpired have raised the political temperature of the situation to boiling point.
The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) said that a recent court ruling could see a labour union being held responsible for the actions of its members if industrial action, which was becoming increasingly tense, became violent.
“The rights and obligations of workers during industrial action is an important element of South Africa’s regulatory regime and has far-reaching consequences on the long-term economic growth of the country,” it said in a statement.
The Black Business Council called for an all-encompassing judicial commission of enquiry to investigate the general conduct of industrial action in a democratic South Africa, and in particular to look at the underlying causes of the Lonmin crisis that culminated in the bloodbath at their Marikana mine.
Nomura International director of emerging markets and economist Peter Attard Montalto added that the politics of labour relations and the reliance of the African National Congress on labour federation the Congress of South African Trade Unions had in the past led to a reluctance of the political leadership to get involved in these violent disputes, sending in the police only at a very late stage.
“More effective and earlier intervention could have disbursed union members more rapidly and in a non violent way, or at the very least contained the number of casualties at a lower level,” he noted.