The government’s intention to ban the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) could provoke the militant organisation, which accuses President Cyril Ramaphosa of working with mine management to break a strike at Sibanye Gold’s mines.
It was Amcu members who were gunned down in the Marikana massacre in 2012.
Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said earlier this month the union had evidence of the strike-breaking campaign.
“[The government and the mining company] have this toxic relationship as if they have never learnt anything from Marikana.”
The union believes Ramaphosa, as a then non-executive director of Lonmin Mining, was instrumental in having the police deployed to Marikana ahead of the shootings, which left 34 miners dead and a number wounded.
In a notice contained in the Government Gazette, labour registrar Lehlohonolo Daniel Molefe this week said he planned to cancel Amcu’s registration if it failed to make submissions to his office within a 60-day window period – citing non-compliance with the union’s constitution, failure to submit information on financial auditing and holding of regular elective conferences.
Molefe has described the 200,000 member-strong Amcu as “not a genuine trade union as envisaged by the Act” – having “ceased to function in terms of its constitution” – in line with the prescripts of the Labour Relations Act.
The move against Amcu comes ahead of a new round of negotiations between it and Sibanye and is also close to the national election – but it could backfire on the ANC’s election campaign.
The EFF has already jumped in for political gain, pledging solidarity with Amcu.
EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the decision was aimed at bolstering the ANC-aligned National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
“Just like the bosses, the department prefers unions that are docile and compliant. Amcu has proven to be a militant union.
“Government should stop taking the side of bosses against workers, as they did when they killed workers in Marikana.”
Professor Susan Booysen, a research director at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, cautioned that Molefe’s move could negatively affect the ANC “if it is driven in pursuance of a political agenda against Amcu”.
“Bureaucrats have to tread carefully because Amcu – a leading trade union on the North West platinum belt – has a political gravitas and is more friendly to the EFF than the ANC.
“They should not be seen to be destabilising a non-ANC supporting union during a crucial election,” said Booysen.
Amcu’s pending deregistration could spell a disaster, according to labour consultant Tony Healy.
“Deregistration will mean it will not be able to function, with members having to join another union,” said Healy.
Amcu’s Mathunjwa says he will respond today.