S. African union tries to rein in mine unrest 05 сентября 2012, 11:52
S. African union tries to rein in mine unrest
South Africa's powerful mineworkers union is trying to rein in unrest in the vital mining sector which has turned into a battleground for rival political and labour factions, AFP reports.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), a key ally of the ruling ANC, on Tuesday denounced calls to exploit the turmoil that stemmed from killings at a platinum mine last month.
"In a normal environment it would be regarded as economic sabotage," said NUM secretary general Frans Baleni. The mining industry accounts for about a fifth of GDP in Africa's largest economy.
However Zolani Bodlani, a representative of the non-unionised workers at the Lonmin mine said wage demands must be on the table when talks resume Wednesday to break the wildcat strike now in its fourth week.
"From what I saw yesterday, I have hope that maybe on Thursday the workers will go back to work," Bodlani told AFP.
"We have indicated before, all we are interested to talk about is 12,500 (rand), the rest can follow," said
Workers have refused to return to work until the company accedes to demands for a wage increase from 4,000 rand a month (375 euros, $475) to 12,500 rand.
The dispute has been become even more bitter since police opened fire on striking miners last month killing 34 people.
The ANC's fiery former youth leader Julius Malema has been travelling to troubled mines, firing up workers and attacking his enemies in the party that expelled him, including President Jacob Zuma.
Last week, he urged workers to make mines "ungovernable" and on Monday told striking gold miners at Gold Fields, where 12,000 miners have downed tools, to bypass the NUM if they felt the labour giant had failed them.
The stoppages have shut down Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine, which has been in the spotlight after 44 people died in a deadly strike for a wage hike. Union rivalry has been blamed for the escalation.
A group of 200 miners marched Tuesday on the mine, where police shot dead 34 protesters last month, demanding their colleagues do not return to work at the world's number three platinum producer. Earlier violence left 10 people dead.
Observers point to political jockeying as the ANC gears up for a crucial year-end elective conference and do not foresee a quick let up until after the conference is held in Bloemfontein.
"Until December we are going to see more and more disruptions because the unions are over politicised," said Iraj Adedian, head of Pan African Investments.
The mining sector contributes around 20 percent of GDP and directly employs a million people.
"It's easy to be populist when you are dealing with economic issues," ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told Talk Radio 702.
"If you say we must kill billionaires, you get an applause from workers, if you say we must shut down the mines, you will get an applause from mineworkers, until the reality of mine closures come to the fore."
The crisis will take a while to settle, experts predicted.
"This is like the war in Afghanistan, you don't know who exactly you are dealing with. How powerful, how organised and representative they really are," Peter Major, a mining expert, told AFP.
"The unions here were possibly getting too large, too removed from their constituencies and too involved in politics," he added.
"So in a way there may be some good results that can come out of this crisis," he said.
Zuma is battling challengers for re-election as ANC chief, which would virtually guarantee another term in office, while enemies such as Malema are trying to push him from the helm of the party that has led the country since the end of white-minority apartheid rule in 1994.
South Africa on Monday started freeing 270 mineworkers arrested over the killing of their 34 colleagues shot dead at the Lonmin mine by police, after a court dropping murder charges that had sparked public outrage.