Farlam Commission cross examines Mathunjwa

FILE PICTURE: Amcu union leader Joseph Mathunjwa. Picture: AFP

FILE PICTURE: Amcu union leader Joseph Mathunjwa. Picture: AFP

Rustenburg – The role which Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa played during a volatile Lonnmin Platinum Mine strike came under close scrutiny as he took the stand at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry this week.

Mathunjwa, under cross examination by Advocates Ishmael Semenya for the police, and Schalk Burger for Lonmin, said he tried his utmost best to move strikers off a koppie in Wonderkop, Marikana to diffuse the situation.

Burger however yesterday accused Mathunjwa of instead using the situation to win a seat at Lonmin’s bargaining table.

Amcu currently has no bargaining rights at Lonmin.

Burger said Mathunjwa had not followed a mandate given to him prior to the killing of 34 miners by police on Thursday, August 16, an incident which has since been dubbed as the “Marikana massacare”.

The tragedy could have been avoided if Mathunjwa was not inflammatory and derogatory of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) during his noon address on the day of the shooting, said Burger.

“On Thursday morning, it was very important to calm down the situation at the koppie,” he asked Mathunjwa who then agreed.

Mathunjwa was pleaded with to go to the koppie, ask workers to lay down their arms and go back to work.

In a transcript of the address, Burger said Mathunjwa did not say “put down you arms and go back to work”.

In reply Mathunjwa said he did mentioned this, and went further on to tell workers that a police rifle was lost and whoever had it must leave.

“If its not here (in the transcript) it means its not captured for whatever reason not known to me,” said Mathunjwa.

Burger said Mathunjwa gave the impression to workers that the employer should give a guarantee to talk to Amcu.

“I said the union of you choice… I was not referring to Amcu… Amcu its known does not have bargaining rights at Lonmin,” replied Mathunjwa.

On the morning of the shooting Mathunjwa needed to calm the situation as a responsible union leader, Burger said.

It was not a time to sweep up emotions, he added.

Mathunjwa said the environment in which he spoke was not like the “air-conditioned” hall the commission was sitting in.

He said he dedicated his life to talk to the workers as requested by mine management.

Burger not persuaded by his answer, further asked Mathunjwa if he agreed that it was not a day to try and organise Amcu membership or pick a fight with the NUM.

He had also accused Lonmin of playing politics, according to the transcript read by Burger. Mathunjwa said he conveyed that statement to miners because management had reneged on its commitment.

The massacre could have been avoided if Lonmin did not do so, he added.

A song which was sung by an Amcu delegate during his address translated to: “NUM, how are we going to kill it”.

The delegate was reprimanded after, Mathunjwa said.

Burger asked Mathunjwa why he did not stop him from singing it there.

“You reprimanded him too late,” he said.

Mathunjwa previously told the commission that the song only referred to the competition.

He denied on Thursday that a toxic relationship existed between NUM and Amcu.

“I put it to you there was a toxic relationship…,” Burger said at the start of his cross examination.
Mathunjwa said he did not agree with this.

“As for Amcu, we dont have toxic relations,” he said.

Burger insisted the relationship was sour as Num would not even travel in the same vehicle with Amcu to address miners on August 15.

At the end of the Inquiry, Burger would argue that the deaths of the miners could be found in the relationship between Amcu and NUM as of August 2012.

He would also suggest that the entire protest was for Amcu to unseat NUM.

During his address Mathunjwa said that Africa’s economy is in white men’s hands who arrived here by boats. They take our brothers and give them top positions, Burger read from the transcript.

Mathunjwa called them “rent-a-blacks”, in his address.

Semenya in his cross examination on Thursday said Burger never took a moment to say to Amcu members that their armed protest was condemned.

Amcu would say repeatedly that it condemned any form of violence, said Mathunjwa.

He was then asked by Semenya to condemn it in front of the commission.

“I Joseph Mathunjwa, president of Amcu condemn any form of armed protest,” he said.

On Tuesday, Mathunjwa said he failed in all avenues to find a resolution to the strike.

He described the frustration he had experienced in trying to get hold of mine management and the SA Police Service on the day of the shooting.

Because of his failed attempts to get hold of both mentioned parties, Mathunjwa said he knew miners were going to be killed.

“The provincial commissioner said to us ‘this thing must end today’. Subsequent to that, that very same commissioner wasn’t able to meet with us. The management reneged from its commitment… and the same management was not able to meet with us… Based on those facts it was clear to me the decision has been taken that these workers are going to be killed.”

On the day of the shooting, Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant General Zukiswa Mbombo had left Marikana for an ANC torch bearing ceremony despite being in charge, and management indicated they were not prepared to meet with workers, he said.

Mathunjwa initially addressed miners from a police Nyala on the evening of August 15.

In recordings of the address played to the commission, workers indicated that they wanted to see Mathunjwa at 9am the next day and asked for their messages to be taken back to management.

Lonmin had wanted workers to renounce violence, return to work peacefully and then engage.

Mathunjwa said he was optimistic by their response, and the next day visited Lonmin offices asking to speak to Jomo Kwadi, Lonmin’s senior manager of employee relations.

It was there that Kwadi informed him of “bad news”.

Management was no longer committed to their commitment and said it already had a two year agreement in place.

“I was actually agitated… I felt we were betrayed as a union,” said Mathunjwa.

A number of Amcu and NUM supporters attended this weeks proceedings, wearing t-shirts of their respective union.

The proceedings continue on Monday at 10am.

 

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