A call to 'prove that mines develop South Africa'Published by MAC on 2013-02-11
Source: Business Day, IOL, Fin24, Daily Maverick, SAPA (2013-02-07)
South Africa has recently hosted both the Mining Indaba and the Alternative Mining Indaba (see: Alternative Mining Indaba 2013).
|Protesters outside the 2013 Mining Indaba in Cape Twon.
Picture Trevor Samson, Business Day
The dichotomy between this corporate and people's agenda is clear in debates within the country. Whereas the Government is clear it wishes to increase tax revenues and employment from the industry, others are calling into question whether the country does benefit from its historic association with mining.
Activists from the Alternative Mining Indaba marched on the official venue demanding "profit must not come before people", and noting the recent problems in employment around South African mines.
This is at the forefront of South African minds as Amplats is arguing with the government and unions over its plans for large-scale retrenchments in the their platinum mines, and details of the massacre at Lonmin's Marikana mine continue to be published. (See: South Africa: Did police deliberately shoot victims of the "Marikana Massacre"?
‘Prove that mines develop SA'
By Ann Crotty
Independent online (South Africa)
7 February 2013
Delegates at the Alternative Mining Indaba have called on the government to study the costs and benefits involved in the mining industry to determine to what extent the industry does help to develop the South African economy.
They have also called on the government to determine who received the benefits and who paid the costs attached to the industry, pointing out that many of the ANC members who made it to the top of the national executive committee list were involved with mining companies.
"We should not be attracting investment at any cost," David van Wyk, the head of research at Bench Marks Foundation, told Business Report at the end of the Alternative Mining Indaba's three-day summit.
Presentations at the Alternative Mining Indaba in Cape Town highlighted the difficulty facing the government as it tries to address the demands of international investors as well as the needs of a large portion of the ANC's voting base.
Commenting on the government's efforts to placate the mining investment community and ease its concerns about investing in South Africa, Van Wyk said: "We shouldn't be making it easier for mining to take place; to the extent that communities and the environment need to be protected, we should be making it harder."
Mining companies argued that they were job creators and yet there was massive unemployment in the communities where there was mining activity, he argued.
"When it comes to providing jobs, the local population is overlooked because mining companies want to be profitable from day one and so will not undertake the necessary training.
"This is partly why so much mining activity is done by a population of migrant labour, which moves around the country following mining activity," said Van Wyk, who added that it was easier to control and retrench migrant labour.
Hundreds of delegates representing labour and communities from across Africa participated in the Alternative Mining Indaba and listened to research findings on the damage being done across the continent by mining companies from Paladin in Malawi to Lonmin in Rustenburg to Glencore in Zambia and to diamond mining in Zimbabwe.
In his presentation, Alvin Mosioma of Tax Justice Network said the ease with which complex corporate structures could be set up to avoid tax meant African governments did not receive the benefit of their countries' resources.
Van Wyk said it was time for the South African government to look beyond mining for the answer to the country's development needs.
A few blocks away, at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, Gold Fields chairwoman Mamphela Ramphele told the Investing in African Mining Indaba that the mining industry had to change its business model. Sapa reports Ramphele as saying mining revenues were not shared equitably.
"Unfortunately, South Africa has sustained an extractive system that started with mining and energy companies and now includes monopolies in many other sectors... we often avoid difficult conversations because we believe the business of business, as one chief executive told me, is to make money regardless of the socio-political environment," Ramphele said.
She said mining should evolve from a core business focused on the extraction and export of resources to a cluster of mining, agriculture and manufacturing, using all the mine's available resources.
Activists march on mining indaba
5 February 2013
Cape Town - Bishop Johannes Seoka, one of the religious leaders who mediated talks between strikers and mine management that led to an agreement that ended the violent strike at Marikana, on Tuesday launched a blistering attack on mines for depleting natural resources, causing environmental damage and neglecting communities surrounding mines.
Seoka led a crowd of protestors to the Cape Town International Convention Centre, the venue for the world's biggest mining investment conference.
The march brought motorists to a standstill as they thronged along the road to the conference site.
The group chanted slogans such as "nothing about us without us" and "profit must not come before people".
"We want to deliver our petition in peace so that you can continue to plot and plunder and steal our natural resources," said Seoka over a loudspeaker.
It was drafted under the auspices of the Alternative Mining Indaba, organised in response to Cape Town's annual mining indaba.
The protesters waited for close to three hours to hand over their petition to a government official, but instead handed it over to Janine Hills, a media adviser for the mining indaba who promised to deliver it to the parliamentary committee on mining.
Reading the petition, Seoka said that the “Corporate Mining Indaba 2013” excluded the participation of the actual owners of the mineral resources who should have been at the centre of the discussions.
The conference fails "woefully to address environmental degradation, deepening of poverty, slippages in the quality of life and concentrating instead on the reckless pursuit of profit at any cost throughout the continent and the world," the clergyman said.
"We note with concern that African governments are over-dependent on mining and foreign direct investment as the path to development at the expense of other people-centred alternatives.
"We also express our unwavering support and solidarity with all other people who are victims of economic, environmental and social injustices surrounding the mining deals that put profit before people throughout the world."
The petition also called on communities affected by mining to put up a united front to fight for social and economic justice in the exploitation of mineral and other natural resources.
Some protesters approached delegates entering the building and waved placards stating "our mines, our resources, our future" and "remember the slain of Marikana".
Sibusiso Sbono, a demonstrator from Witbank, said that mining licences should be reviewed. "Communities should be consulted and there needs to be a stronger focus on the social impact of mines," he said.
Bulelwa Mukenge from the Democratic Republic of Congo took a swipe at foreign investors. "Foreign investors are looting the people and corrupting officials in the mining sector."
An activist from Marikana, Chris Molebatsi, said South Africa is a rich country but some people continue to live in squalor.
He also condemned the government for looking after the interest of the elite. "The ANC is not willing to give the land back to the rightful owners because they are making space for the elitists' BEE," Molebatsi said.
Alvin Mosioma from Kenya, who is the director of Tax Justice Network Africa, said mining needs to be looked at from the people’s perspective.
"Governments tend to listen only to the mining companies, and other stakeholders like communities and churches are not reflected and included in policy making," he said.
Police at the convention centre threatened to act if Seoka did not contain the protesters, after they were ushered away from the entrance to the centre due to a permit limitation.
However, the clergyman passed security officials demanding to speak to a government official, but the MP shooed him away.
Seoka was one of a group of religious leaders who mediated talks between strikers and mine management which led to an agreement that ended the Lonmin strike that claimed the lives of more than 40 people, 34 of whom was shot dead by police on August 16.
Mining Indaba protesters complain of lack of labour representation
by Paul Vecchiatto
5 February 2013
DEMONSTRATORS referring to themselves as the "Alternative Mining Indaba" gathered outside the Mining Indaba in Cape Town on Tuesday, saying that the government and the mining sector were placing profits ahead of people, the environment and sustainability.
At the 19th annual indaba, more than 7,500 delegates from the world's top mining houses and officials from mining jurisdictions are reflecting on events of the past year, which saw the bulk of commodity prices slow down as growth in China tapered.
Anglican Bishop of Pretoria Joe Seoka said the government and organisers of the official indaba had refused to accept a memorandum from the demonstrators.
A group of about 120 protesters were waiting to hand it over instead to a representative from Parliament's portfolio committee on mineral resources.
"We are also objecting that this indaba only has government, the investors (in the mining sector) and those who control the mines. There are no union or labour representatives," he said.
None of South Africa's main labour movements have delegates attending the indaba and there are no presentations scheduled on the issue of labour relations.
Mr Seoka also said that no representation was made to the "real owners of the mineral resources - the people of South Africa".
He said the demonstrators were also remembering events at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine last year, when a wildcat strike culminated in the deaths of 34 people on August 16.
There is widespread concern that there will be more turmoil in the mining sector when wage negotiations in the gold and coal industries start in April.
A proposal by Anglo American Platinum to cut 14,000 jobs after mothballing shafts and suspending processing plants sparked a short, illegal strike last month.
President Jacob Zuma insisted last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that the worst of the labour unrest was over. "Yes, we have seen the worst, we are dealing with the matter," he said.
With Mariam Isa
Truth & lies: The saga of the Marikana massacre continues
29 January 2013
In the circle of people investigating the circumstances of the Marikana Massacre around the Farlam Commission, the cellphone video is known as the "Ryland Footage". It was taken by a Tactical Response Team member, Captain Ryland, of the otherwise un-photographed killings at Small Koppie.
It is explosive.
The cellphone appears to have been attached to Ryland's weapon, or he was holding it pressed against the barrel, but it shows us what was happening from the policeman's point of view, much like a "shoot-em-up" video game.
Early on in the footage, as the cops with their characteristic black berets lie prone next to rocks, a voice says, "Somebody shooting!" At one point, Ryland's video shows his own face. Ryland appears to be a coloured TRT member with heavy-set features. A voice warns that a miner is on the move, and Captain Ryland calls out, "Wait, don't shoot him! Don't shoot him!" Yet gunfire rings out and then Ryland moves forward, saying: "Is he all right, is he all right?" Once he is satisfied that a person out of frame - not the shot miner - is indeed all right, the video moves on to show a dead miner, his chest beginning to show seeping blood in places.
The same cellphone footage then captures the voice of a nearby police officer saying, "Did you see how I took him down? I shot him 10 times and he still kept coming." The unidentified officer continues, "That motherfucker, I shot him at least 10 times!"
That "motherfucker" was Thobile Mpumza, 26; he was shot 12 times. He had previously worked at Lonmin's Karee mine, but had been fired in 2011 for taking part in the unprotected strike there that resulted in more than than 9,000 miners being fired. Though many miners were later rehired, Mpumza was not. He was from Mount Ayliff in the Eastern Cape.
The footage continues, as Ryland and another unidentified police officer walk deeper into the heart of the jumble of rocks known Small Koppie. One of the voices excitedly describes how the miner was gunned down, "Kakakakakka". This audio also happens to support what surviving miners told the Daily Maverick in September, months before this footage was submitted to the commission: that police boasted of killing their comrades, even those who were trying to surrender. There seems to be footage from a second mobile phone, though there is no sound accompanying the footage.
At Small Koppie itself, the extent of the carnage becomes clear. The footage shows several of the bodies lying exactly where later crime scene letters would mark the scene. (These were the crime scene markings that would lead the Daily Maverick to postulate that 14 miners had been killed, murdered, at "scene two", as the police call it.)
Where these dead miners lie corresponds exactly with the markings at those points. The Ryland footage showed some, but not all of the dead. In fact, though we put at 14 the number of dead at Small Koppie (which was exactly the number of bodies left on the scene for the crime scene expert to process), we now know that more were shot to death there.
Four of the miners wounded at Small Koppie died either in ambulances on their way, or once at hospital. That takes the death toll for Small Koppie to 18. Eighteen people killed by the police. The majority of those killed in the Marikana massacre.
There has, for some time now, been no doubt, even for those most likely to believe the tale put out by the police, that it was indeed mass murder that occurred at Small Koppie - but yellow paint on rock does not quite bring home the horror like an amateur video shot by a policeman on the scene does.
Yet this footage and its crass, seemingly incriminating audio were hardly reported on in the media, including the Daily Maverick. A few did report on it in quite widely varied ways, as if they had been watching different cuts of the footage.
We are discussing the footage here, now, because of a piece that appeared on Channel 4 in the UK. British journalist Inigo Gilmore combed through the extensive footage submitted to the Commission, and found the extraordinary video. Working with local translators, he came to certain conclusions, including one that South African journos are more than a little slack.
Mea culpa - or whatever the plural is - the journalists covering the Marikana Commission did not do that story justice. The footage was shown at the Commission in late November. In the journalists' defence, it was a few minutes among a day and a half of video evidence.
Now that parts of this are in the public domain, and we can watch it, refer to it, read about it, we all have an opinion. I know that I had one on watching the Channel 4 piece.
A number of news organisations ran stories about it, with barely a mention of the more explosive parts of the videos that the programme shows.
The police have tried to play at sleight of hand in some of the video footage; especially embarrassing was when they were caught by Commission investigators in tampering with the evidence at the Small Koppie scene. Early crime scene investigation footage shows several identifiable slain miners without weapons next to them. This footage was taken while paramedics were on the scene trying to save lives, and police were still arresting and assaulting miners lying on the ground.
Evidence leaders showed photos of the slain miners taken by the first forensic investigator and compared them to a set taken by another later in the day. In the second footage, several weapons appeared to have been planted on the bodies after the first investigator collected the evidence. The crime scene investigator admitted this would indeed appear to be so.
I must admit, on seeing the piece, that I too thought the Ryland Footage had been tampered with to hide police guilt. I was wrong.
Inigo Gilmore tells us: "When we looked at the police video that the police filmed on 16th August 2012 - or least the police video that was made available - we were astonished by what we found. We listened closely to the audio, which was a mix of Tswana, English and Afrikaans. You can hear an officer clearly shout out, ‘Don't shoot, don't shoot', but then shots ring out and moments later the body of a miner, shot many times, can be seen. You can also hear a police officer standing by the body say: ‘I shot that motherfucker.'
"So this video raises a lot of questions. What's more, it does appear that the video was heavily edited before being made available. Several times just when something appears to be happening, the video cuts out. At one moment, a police officer can be seen pointing down at someone on the ground. Is he pointing a gun? It is not clear. The video sequence cuts out.'
"Perhaps police video from that day can hold a key to understanding what really happened. If it is possible to clarify details of what happened in and around the 'Killing Koppie', where a majority of the miners died, then surely it's possible to piece together how the miners died. So the question is: what about the rest of the footage? Is it out there somewhere?"
It seems that the police were quite keen to have this footage admitted as evidence, as well as that from another policeman's cell phone, as they believed it supported their case that they acted in self-defence.
Here is how the story goes. At the outer circle of police surrounding Small Koppie, a man in a light-coloured shirt is making a dash for freedom, carrying two spears. It is 16:13, and he might have been escaping from the cauldron of death that was the innermost circle of the weathered jumble of granite that was the remains of the koppie. Equally, he might not have; we will never know. The man is Thobile Mpumza. As he runs, a man's voice commands him to lie down and lower his weapons. Mpumza does so. Sgt S then moves in to handcuff him, and as the policemen gets near, Mpumza suddenly lifts the spears and lunges at Sgt S. The policeman falls backwards and fires repeatedly with his service pistol. He shoots nine bullets, and Mpumza lies dead on his back.
This is where the cellphone footage records Captain Ryland asking if Sgt S is all right, before moving to look at Mpumza, who is clearly not all right.
In the initial version of events by Sgt S, he is convinced that he killed Mpumza. Yet he was wrong; all of his shots missed Mpumza completely.
Mpumza's torso was riddled with twelve high-velocity rounds, fired from an R5 rifle. The range at which he was shot is not clear from the forensic evidence, but the grouping suggests at reasonably close range.
It was one of the other specialist members who shot him; the ballistic evidence presented at the Commission will clarify this.
So this is the only one of the 34, insiders at the commission reckon, where the police have any claim to being able to say their officers acted in self or private defence against a miner who threatened them. Mpumza had many more wounds than any of the other victims that day.
This is the exception that proves the rule. It shows us some of the many shades of grey between the absolutes of partisan opinion.
Yet what is troubling is that this narrative has been garbled by our narrators, including Channel 4. The police had managed to show themselves in the worst possible light at the Commission when they were caught fabricating evidence on another occasion. They have also been caught out withholding evidence they deemed self-incriminating.
One of the huge gaps in the video and photographic record is that of the actual killings at Small Koppie. The helicopter flying overhead, its crew tasked with recording the day, somehow is facing the other way for almost an hour while the shootings take place.
Police advocate Ishmael Semenya complained that the police were already negatively judged in the court of public opinion, and asked that the SAPS be given the opportunity to lay out their side of the story. They did, and yet it seems they have been frugal with the facts of "their" side of the story.
Lieutenant-Colonel Duncan Scott and Lieutenant-Colonel Victor Visser, as well as other police witnesses, have said the police acted in self-defence on the day of the massacre, in the face of extraordinary circumstances, namely aggression from a large crowd that would not acquiesce to police demands that they disarm and disperse. Therefore, the police were left with no choice but to use deadly force. The police argument is not at all convincing thus far, but more than that, it raises disturbing questions about police motives in the Commission. It appears they do not want the truth, whatever that may be, to come out, and they are trying to clear themselves of any blame.
What the police and their political masters do not realise is that the an entire nation's faith is vested in an honest police force that strives to uphold the Constitution, or does it damnedest to rectify the situation when it stumbles.
The police have no right, ethically, morally or legally, to withhold any evidence relating to the massacre, even if it implicates their own members. They have a duty not to obstruct justice, or the Commission, by submitting partial, edited footage. And we, the journalists, have to tell the full story, as accurately as we are able, but in context. The dead of Marikana deserve no less. DM
See:- Marikana massacre: police shooting video footage that shows police cops boasting of the killings - http://www.channel4.com/news/marikana-massacre-police-shooting-video-footage
Carroll: Mine violence caused by legacy of apartheid
5 December 2012
"The violence we have seen in the mining sector this year has its seeds in the legacy of apartheid and the underlying social problems that remain," the mining company's outgoing chief executive said during a discussion at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
"The curse of unemployment means that mine workers often have many other people who are economically dependent on them."
Carroll said the history of the migrant labour system loosened the bonds of family life and dislocated communities.
"The brutalisation of human relationships that occurred under apartheid ... all of these factors can be seen in the turmoil and tragedy we have experienced this year."
Carroll said whatever the challenges the country faced, there were "truths" which had to be faced.
The first was that there was no future for any society without law and order.
Maintaining law and order
"Public order is the bedrock without which civilisation collapses. This year we have seen violence and unrest across the mining industry and in several other sectors."
Another truth the nation had to face was that anarchy in the workplace benefited no one.
Businesses that could not generate adequate returns ultimately collapsed and died.
"It is the responsibility of management, not just to shareholders, but also to employees, to ensure that companies remain economically competitive."
The maintenance of law and order and the restoration of stable labour relations were critical to perceptions of South Africa as a place to do business.
"They [international investors] will make their judgements on the basis of the reality they can see."
'Mining is at the heart of SA economy'
She said the mining sector was at the heart of the South African economy, generating 18.7% of the country's GDP and directly employing 13.5-million people.
"It [mining] has a critical role to play in supporting the aspirations of the new growth path and the objectives of the national development plan."
Carroll said discussions on the regulation of the mining sector had been going on for a long time.
"The spectre of nationalisation has been laid to rest. But the need to guard against damaging regulatory changes remains." - Sapa
SA's ANC risks investment with attack on Anglo American
23 January 2013
South Africa's ruling party attacked some of the country's largest companies this week as it sought to defend its record in government, straining its relationship with business and threatening investment.
Gwede Mantashe, secretary-general of the African National Congress, yesterday accused London-based Anglo American Plc of theft, after its platinum unit announced plans to fire as many as 14,000 workers. The day before, the party described a new advertising campaign by the nation's second-largest lender First National Bank that calls on the youth to unite against "greed, mistrust and anger" as "insulting."
With elections scheduled next year, President Jacob Zuma is struggling to reduce a 25.5 percent unemployment rate and contain anger over a lack of housing and basic services. A souring of relations between business and the ANC threatens to deter the investment Zuma needs to meet a goal of creating 11 million jobs and slashing the jobless rate to 6 percent by 2030.
"The wider ANC will find bashing big business to be fertile ground in reinforcing its support base," in the run-up to the vote, Jolyon Ford, a political analyst at Oxford Analytica in Oxford, U.K., said in an e-mailed response to questions. "This is unfortunate since to retain support the ANC needs growth and job creation, and for this it needs big business on board."
The ANC has ruled Africa's largest economy since the first- all race elections in 1994, and currently controls almost two- thirds of the seats in Parliament. Since September, Moody's Investors Service, Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings have downgraded the nation's debt, citing deteriorating social stability as a contributing factor.
South Africa had a record 173 protests over the lack of housing and basic services, according to Johannesburg-based research group Municipal IQ. In the past three days, township residents in Sasolburg, about 70 kilometers (43 miles) south of Johannesburg, have stoned cars, looted shops and blocked roads with burning tires to protest plans to redraw the area's municipal boundaries. Three policemen were injured during clashes with as many as 5,000 residents on Jan. 21, according to police.
"The fact that violence can escalate over an issue that seems so small shows the underlying social tensions and risks that the rating agencies highlight and keep the rating bias to the downside," Peter Attard Montalto, an economist at Nomura International Plc in London, said in an e-mailed note to clients yesterday.
The rand has slumped 4.3 percent against the dollar since the beginning of the year, the worst performer of 16 major currencies monitored by Bloomberg. It was trading at 8.8558 a dollar as of 5:54 p.m. in Johannesburg yesterday.
The cost of protecting South African debt against non- payment using credit default swaps over five years has climbed 12 basis points in the period to 155, the highest in almost two months.
South Africa has been wracked by violent protests since August, when police opened fire on thousands of strikers at Lonmin Plc's Marikana platinum mine, killing 34 of them in the deadliest police action since the end of apartheid. That prompted credit-rating downgrades and led Eurasia Group to include South Africa on its list of the top 10 potentially risky geopolitical areas in 2013.
"Populism, spearheaded by the ruling ANC party, is on the rise," New York-based Eurasia said on Jan. 7. "Coming retrenchments in mining will almost certainly spur another bout of labor unrest, which has the potential to spread into other sectors as well, and taken together all these factors increase the risk of further credit downgrades."
Anglo American Platinum Ltd., the world's largest producer of the metal which is controlled by Anglo American, announced its planned job cuts on Jan. 15, saying they were necessary to restore profitability.
Mines Minister Susan Shabangu rebuked the companies last week and threatened to revoke some their mining licenses, while Mantashe said yesterday the government needs to take greater control of mines.
Anglo and Amplats "have stolen our money," Mantashe said in an interview on Johannesburg-based SAfm radio. "They are a British company now. They have a responsibility to talk to South Africa on the operations."
Peter Leon, head of Africa mining and energy projects at law firm Webber Wentzel in Johannesburg, said on Jan. 18 the government will face "formidable regulatory hurdles" if carries out a threat to revoke licenses. Anglo American, which was founded in Johannesburg in 1917, moved its headquarters to London in 1999.
FNB, the bank owned by Johannesburg-based FirstRand Ltd., came under attack from the ruling party this week for an advertising campaign featuring school children discussing their hopes and concerns for the country, some of which are critical of Zuma.
The FNB marketing campaign is an "undisguised political statement that makes random and untested accusations against our government," the ANC said. FNB denied the allegation.
The ruling party's handling of the two incidents did little to dispel negative perceptions of South Africa, according to Mzukisi Qobo, a politics lecturer at the University of Pretoria.
"This sends a very wrong message to business in South Africa that they should stay away from politics and should not point out deficiencies of government," he said in a phone interview yesterday. "It also sends a wrong message outside of South Africa. It paints the ruling party as intolerant and as taking a position that is hostile to business. There are long- term implications of this kind of messaging."
--With assistance from Franz Wild in Johannesburg. Editors: Nasreen Seria, Karl Maier
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South African govt. not threatening mining firms - Zuma
23 January 2013
DAVOS, Switzerland - The South African government needs to "engage" with platinum and gold mining firms about proposed shaft closures and mass lay-offs and is not threatening them with licence reviews, President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday.
"We are not making any threat to anyone. We are saying: 'Let us come together, let us discuss. This affects all of us. It does not affect companies only,'" he told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Zuma's comments strike a more conciliatory tone than the prevailing rhetoric from Pretoria in the wake of Anglo American Platinum's announcement this month of plans to mothball shafts and lay off 14,000 workers as part of a restructuring by parent company Anglo American.
In an unscripted tirade against the company shortly after its announcement, mining minister Susan Shabangu accused Amplats management of keeping the government in the dark and betraying its trust.
The ruling ANC also attacked the restructuring as "cynical and dangerous" and said it justified a review of mining licences across the industry, which is still largely controlled by South Africa's white minority.
Party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe kept up the pressure this week, telling South African radio that Anglo had "stolen our money" - remarks that helped knock 2 percent off the global mining giant's share price.
However, Zuma made clear that no rash decisions should be taken by either side.
"I don't think we should say either government should make unilateral decisions - for example the licenses - or that companies should have unilateral power to say 'Because our company is in trouble, without consulting anybody, just take action'," he said.
"We are a constitutional democracy. We must engage."
South Africa's mining sector employs 500,000 people and accounts for more than 6 percent of GDP but suffered the worst industrial unrest since apartheid last year, including the police killing of 34 strikers at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine in August.
ANC's Ramaphosa leaves Lonmin board
23 January 2013
JOHANNESBURG - South African platinum producer Lonmin said on Wednesday that Cyril Ramaphosa was stepping down as a non-executive director at the end of the month.
Ramaphosa was elected deputy president of the ruling African National Congress in December and said at the time he would be reviewing his various business interests to prevent conflicts with his new political role.
Can the NUM be fixed, bottom-up?
By Greg Nicolson
22 January 2013
The aftershocks of the 2012 mining uprising are starting to be felt by workers throughout the industry. Amplats is about to implement massive job cuts. Harmony Gold has established who's the boss. For the National Union of Mineworkers, it's time to pick up the pieces. But can it regain its members by going back to union basics and getting it right in the shafts and hostels?
In the introduction of the NUM's secretariat report to its May 2012 national congress, members of the union remember how the union changed their lives. "In 1987 I was a mine security guard and we were badly treated. But the moment I joined the NUM, I had my rights as a worker and expressed my dissatisfaction against ill-treatment," said Thabiso Tedeli. To lighten the mood, the report then features brighter moments from the life of miners.
It highlights the union's proud history on its 30th anniversary, but soon moves to its challenges. In Rustenburg, says the report, the NUM saw unending divisions, violence, members ignoring their leadership, and slow responses to crises.
Then came Marikana, when the mining industry faced mass strikes and the NUM's failures became so public.
The union now has to ask how to solve those problems: should it start in the shafts and hostels by getting its core responsibilities right?
That's where the problems are most pointed. The NUM report found that some workers were vying for leadership positions simply for personal benefit, with little concern for their fellow workers: they want to be unionists for the money, to disrupt other leaders, or to get a better job after mining. "There has also been concern with the emergence of some leaders who do not uphold the truth. Simply put, they have a propensity to lie," said the secretariat report. In the Rustenburg region, which saw strike after strike in 2012, the NUM saw "unending leadership tensions". Elections turned violent, members had "low loyalty levels" and they turned against the NUM in their thousands and joined the rival Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, ever the helpful meddler when other leaders fail to join the dots, noted that it is becoming common for English-speaking and literate workers with more qualifications to be elected as shop stewards, regardless of whether they represent the workers. One third of Cosatu's members are functionally illiterate but "they are not in the membership," he said, at a press conference in December 2012, summing up the challenges ahead. "So what do you expect? Their issues will not be taken up vigorously... They find themselves sidelined by the union."
Branch offices are now dominated by skilled workers more likely to sit at a desk than work down a shaft. "If we have a leadership that is so far removed from the realities of the working people then a danger may creep in that they do not take up the issues that do not reflect them directly because they have a comfort in the status quo," said Vavi at Cosatu's congress last year.
Miners, according to the general secretary, "toil in the most wretched, unhealthy and dangerous conditions, kilometers underground, for wages that come nowhere close to the value that their labour creates for their employers. The rock drill operators at the centre of the (Marikana) dispute perform a more dangerous, unhealthy and difficult job than anyone else in the world. They face death every time they go down the shafts."
Low pay and unsafe conditions - no wonder union members turned on their local NUM leaders, accusing them of selling out, ignoring their complaints, and signing deals without wider consent, as happened when the NUM agreed to an 18% pay increase for rock drill operators at Impala Platinum last year, creating disgruntlement and sparking strikes.
NUM spokesman Lesiba Sheshoka told the Daily Maverick the union is currently reviewing what changes to make at the branch and shop steward level to address the problems. He wouldn't go into detail, but on Sunday ANC secretary general and former NUM general secretary Gwede Mantashe had some advice for the union members. His tone was optimistic but laced with the reality of the situation: the NUM is under threat and actions must be taken to win back members.
Shop stewards need to take their members' concerns seriously, no matter how big or small, said Mantashe. They must only sign what their members agree to and approve. They have to unite the workforce and if they want to protest they must do so peacefully. It's "Introduction to Union Work 101" stuff, suggesting the NUM will be fine if the shop stewards just do their job.
It will not be so simple, however. Amcu has taken a chunk of the NUM's membership in the last year and Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa is offering a union that can focus on its members rather than the politics the NUM deals with. "A politician needs to be a politician; a businessman needs to be a businessman; a unionist needs to be a unionist," he told the Daily Maverick on Monday. "We put ourselves in [the workers'] gumboots so to speak. So when we enter that boardroom we don't pretend to be management."
Whether it's true in practice or not, Amcu is now a viable alternative for miners while the NUM has to face the realities of its own near-implosion. As Sakhela Buhlungu wrote in A Paradox to Victory, unionists within Cosatu and the Tripartite Alliance are doing much more than just union work and have great incentives (that have nothing to do with their fellow workers) to be elected.
The problems within the NUM are not confined to the shafts and branch offices but run through the union. If it goes back to basics - listening to members, getting mandates and acting on them - it may retain its strength. But changing the culture of branches requires changing the culture of the organisation; change that also needs a clear direction from the top.
For now, that's unlikely. The NUM's leaders kept their head in the sand (or focused on politics) during Marikana and the union is talking tough but not suggesting solutions on potential job losses in the mining industry.
At Mangaung, the union's president, Senzi Zokwana, won a spot on the ANC's national executive committee and with it comes the chance to push pro-labour policies and try to address some of the economic fundamentals behind inequality. But he is also in the awkward position of being a part of the ANC's decisions. Whatever the party decides on labour broking, a youth wage scheme, e-tolls, or intervention in mining, Zokwana will be included and will have to stomach what comes his way, whether it benefits workers or not.
While NUM is under pressure, its leaders need to speak for their members and prove their commitment rather than be chastened. Some less idealistic miners might think Zokwana is priming himself for another job, but that's nothing new at the NUM. DM