Hundreds of Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) members gathered at platinum miner Lonmin’s offices to hand over a memorandum of demands.
“We want to settle this strike,” Amcu leader Joseph Mathunjwa said, “move away from 9.5 percent and deliver on R12,500 promises made by the [Lonmin] CEO.”
He said mining companies should negotiate in good faith and the union and companies should return to the negotiating table to end the strike that started in January.
However, Lonmin CEO Ben Magara said the current wage demand by Amcu was unaffordable.
“I feel for the challenges they [mineworkers] are going through… We are working hard but it is difficult… the demand is unaffordable,” he said.
“The world is watching us take each other into poverty… We need to accept the realities.”
Magara accepted a memorandum from Mathunjwa and Amcu members in Melrose Arch in Johannesburg.
Amcu members at Lonmin, Anglo American Platinum, and Impala Platinum downed tools on January 23.
They have so far rejected a wage increase of up to nine percent. The companies, in turn, rejected Amcu’s revised demand that the R12,500 could be achieved over four years.
The group started gathering in a park at 10am and walked the few hundred metres singing, dancing, waving branches and blowing vuvuzelas.
The entrance to Melrose Arch was closed and a small stage was erected at the entrance. Speakers were set up on the side.
The group gathered in front of the stage and sang struggle songs.
A sign proclaiming “R12,500. If Lonmin cannot afford this amount, [it] must leave our country!!!” was displayed.
Some protesters wore shirts with slogans including: “They died for a living wage R12,500. The struggle continues”, “forward to a living wage”, and “Amcu. No amount of oppression will deter our freedom of association”.
After signing the memorandum, Magara thanked the union members for the visit and said Lonmin was prepared to talk because the company acknowledged there were so many “ills” in the industry and was aware that they needed to be resolved.
Magara said appropriate attention would be put to the memorandum.
Mathunjwa warned Lonmin not to close any shafts.
“You close one of your shafts — there will be no shaft that operates. I forewarn you Anglo, you close one shaft — Lonmin will never return to work. There will be a peaceful solidarity strike,” he said.
“Impala — you close one mine and we will have a mass solidarity. That means all platinum mines will be back to square one.”
Mathunjwa gave Magara and Lonmin until April 9 to respond to the memorandum.
More protests are expected over the next two weeks.