Lonmin official, Executive Vice President for Human Capital and External Affairs for Lonmin, Barnard Mokwena, told SA FM’s Market Update host, Alec Hogg, today (14 Aug) that a Court interdict had been given to the company on Saturday against the illegal striking workers but that the company has willingly chosen not to effect it.
He said the company’s board chairperson, Roger Phillimore, is coming from London tomorrow to meet the Minister of Mineral Resources Susan Shabangu to discuss the issue. According to the official it is Rock Drill Operators that are on strike and that this incident is similar to what had happened at Impala Platinum operations early this year.
At the time of the Impala strike, it seemed many Anglo Platinum and Lonmin employees were rejoicing (sort of). After some of the dismissed employees were rejected (for a number of reasons) by Impala and those who chose not to be re-employed by the company – many of them went to rival platinum mines, including Lonmin and Anglo Platinum. At the same time there were reports that Impala strike was sparked by claims that the company had offered a group of its miners a certain per centage salary increase because many of these were being head-hunted by or moving to other platinum companies because of higher salaries offered.
The tide has now turned against Lonmin and all eyes are on it to see how it will solve this violent strike. This after its official told Hogg that it is now its Rock Drill Operators – and not Impala’s this time around – that have downed tools due to wage/salary demands.
Amcu official told the broadcaster this evening its members are disciplined, accusing Lonmin of denying that the strike started last week Friday. He said its members were first shot at by NUM members at the Lonmin operations, accusing the NUM official (Piet Mathosa) of being paid by BHB Billiton. But NUM hit back, accusing Amcu of not having a recognition agreement with Lonmin, and that Joseph Mathundwa (of Amcu) is an employee of BHB Billiton.
According to Mathosa, Num members were being attacked, and that they (as NUM) had a meeting with its members today urging them to calm down and not involve themselves in the illegal strike action or nor should they retaliate (emphasis added) when attacked. He said their [NUM] members are willing to return to work but could not do so because they were threatened – seemingly by rival union, Amcu. It would seem both unions have no control over their violet members just as they did not at the time of the Impala strike which resulted in about three or more people losing their lives and some casualties.
While there were reports during Impala strike that some of those involved were not mine workers but just local community members with criminal intentions – it is however not clear whether the same could be happening at the Lonmin strike. What further differentiates the Impala strike from Lonmin’s is the number of people killed and the violence levels: Impala had lesser people killed than Lonmin, and there were a lot of criminal intentions where people looted nearby shops which were mostly owned by Indian-origin business people during the Impala strike while no such lootings have been reported at Lonmin. The level of violence also appears to be serious at Lonmin than at Impala which to date has claimed the lives of about 10 people who at the time of writing this their names had been made available.
What appears to be clear and similar with both strikes at these platinum companies is the shooting between/among Amcu and NUM union members, and the platinum groups’ Court interdiction against the illegal strike by its employees.
While there seems to be a number of similarities, what sets the Impala strike apart from Lonmin’s is that the latter has reportedly closed all of its operations across the country except its essential services such as ventilation operating while at it was only the former’s (Impala’s) Rustenburg operations that were affected and closed of about a month.
What is worrying and not clear as I write this is for how long the Lonmin operations will remain closed, and the results thereof: possible retrenchments and dismissals.