3 minute read
11 Nov 2014
2:25 pm

Lonmin spread misinformation – Amcu lawyer

Lonmin spread misinformation about striking mine workers and Amcu's role in the strike at Marikana in August 2012, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Tuesday.

FILE PICTURE: People are gathered at Nkaneng behind the Lonmin mine on August 16, 2013, in Rustenburg, South Africa. On August 16, 2012, 34 miners were shot and killed by police during a wage dispute in what is now called the Marikana massacre. An event was held in remembrance of the tragedy. (Photo by Gallo Images / Foto24 / Felix Dlangamandla)

“Lonmin did not engage with strikers, but what it did is they spread misinformation about the strikers,” Heidi Barnes, for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, told the commission in Pretoria in her final arguments.

“All these claims were false and Lonmin made these claims knowing them to be false.”

Commission chairman retired judge Ian Farlam said he got the impression that Lonmin believed Amcu was behind the strike, and the rivalry between Amcu and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) had played a role within the strike.

“I’m not sure it’s fair to say Lonmin deliberately spread misinformation that Amcu were behind the strike,” he said.

Barnes referred to the testimony of former Lonmin chief operating officer Mahomed Ismail Seedat.

He was CEO between September 2007 and December 2010, before he became a non-executive board member in January 2011.

On September 11 this year, Seedat told the commission Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa offered to call off the August 2012 strike in exchange for a seat at the Lonmin negotiating table.

Amcu was a relatively new union at the mine.

He told the commission that on August 16, 2012, he had stepped into the main Lonmin administration building where Mathunjwa saw him.

He explained to the Amcu leader that as a former Lonmin executive he had been requested to assist temporarily during the wage-related protest.

“We were talking a bit loudly and because there was a press briefing of the police going on, somebody asked us to be quiet. We then moved to a corridor that leads from the reception area.

“In the conversation, he said words to the effect of ‘give me a place at the bargaining table and I will get the workers off the koppie [hill]’. I told him that as a non-executive director I couldn’t make such decisions,” said Seedat at the time.

Barnes said the suggestion that Mathunjwa sought to exploit the situation for Amcu’s gain was not true.

“What he [Mathunjwa] has never denied in his evidence was that he wanted to be part of the solution,” she said.

“His evidence is clear as to what he says he was doing and what he was not doing.”

What Mathunjwa meant was Amcu sought to be part of a negotiated solution to the strike, a very different proposition to seeking access to bargaining rights, a subtlety that Seedat had misunderstood.

“Mr Seedat’s testimony cannot constitute evidence that Mr Mathunjwa was seeking bargaining rights at Lonmin,” Barnes said.

Lonmin and police had colluded to end the strike, influenced by Lonmin’s belief that the violence and strike had been influenced by union rivalry, which they passed on to police.

“It was agreed between the two, in other words, there would be no negotiation with the strikers,” she said.

“Even if the term collusion is perhaps over stating the position, we submit that it is not… If one were to use co-operation instead of collusion, one would still have a basis for accomplice [liability].”

The commission is investigating the deaths of 44 people at Lonmin’s platinum mining operations in Marikana, North West, in strike-related unrest in August 2012.

Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police on August 16, 2012.

More than 70 people were wounded and more than 200 were arrested. The police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and two Lonmin security officers, were killed.

– Sapa