“This is South Africa, this is not New York,” he said at a New Age breakfast briefing in Johannesburg.
“The traditional weapons a man [carries] when he walks out, he’s used to carrying a stick but not with the intention to kill.”
He said if government wanted this to change, it should show people “how not to be your culture and [instead] how to be western culture”.
“We’ve been carrying sticks many times unless maybe we are not from Africa… we cannot change overnight.”
Mathunjwa was referring to striking mineworkers who had been seen carrying traditional weapons and sticks during an almost four-month-old strike in the North West platinum belt.
Members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) at Lonmin, Impala Platinum, and Anglo American Platinum in Rustenburg and at Northam in Limpopo downed tools on January 23, demanding a basic monthly salary of R12,500.
The strike has reportedly cost the companies over R18.5 billion in revenue and workers more than R8.2bn in earnings, according to a website created by platinum mining companies, www.platinumwagenegotiations.co.za.
Mathunjwa said his union was committed to peace.
The briefing got heated when Mathunjwa and his rival, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) general secretary Frans Baleni, exchanged words.
Baleni said many mineworkers had been brutally murdered since 2012 in the platinum belt, and that 99 percent of the perpetrators were from Amcu.
He said female mineworkers from the NUM had been stripped naked and paraded in front of 10,000 men.
Mathunjwa said Amcu denounced violence and that the SA Police Service was biased as it did not arrest the perpetrators of crimes. He was referring to the NUM.
“As far as we know, we don’t have a person that we have killed,” Mathunjwa said.
“From 23 of January to now, only Amcu members have been killed.”
He claimed police had done nothing to stop the violence because it was colluding with the NUM.
“It is NUM attacking our members. The president of NUM [Senzeni Zokwana] is sitting in SAPS meetings,” he claimed.
Baleni rejected the allegation, saying the NUM was not involved in anything.
The debate was broadcast live on SABC2.