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IndustriALL condemns wild killings at South African Lonmin mine

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17 August, 2012Conflict stemming from collusion between management and a yellow union, attempting to weaken IndustriALL’s affiliated National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), escalated into tragedy yesterday as at least 35 workers were shot dead by police at the Marikana platinum mine.

IndustriALL joins NUM in calling for calm to return to the Marikana mine, about 100 km north-west of Johannesburg, and demanding a full and thorough investigation from law enforcement agencies that leads to arrests and prosecution for those responsible. The shootings occurred at the Wonderkop squatter camp at the mine, after police efforts to disperse crowds of demonstrators with teargas and water cannons failed. It is now the responsibility of Lonmin, the UK-based mine owner to ensure calm and safety is restored so that miners can return to work.

The blame and the root cause of the conflict, which had already killed 10 people, lies with the employer who conducted an underhanded attack on the NUM and the established bargaining structure by bypassing the proper channels and offering a unilateral allowance to rock-drill operators.

Today, NUM General Secretary Frans Baleni and an NUM delegation are visiting the mine together with South Africa’s Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu, to give condolences to the families of  the dead workers and to establish a clearer understanding of how the tragedy occurred. NUM President Senzeni Zokwana, also Vice-President of IndustriALL, who is at the mine appealing for calm, stated “rock drillers are always vulnerable to scam artists targeting the platinum industry in Limpopo and the North West.” Referring to the rival union he said “these guys have taken the guise of a union that promises them R12,500 – which NUM adamantly says is unachievable for a rock driller.”

Lonmin followed the example of fellow platinum miner Impala Platinum, where there has also been increasing intimidation and violence this year. At both Lonmin and Impala, NUM is persecuted by management through a number of undermining efforts that favour yellow unions and non-union members. A major contributing  factor is the lack of a centralized bargaining structure inside the Chamber of Mines for the platinum mining industry, as exists for coal and gold mining. South Africa is the world’s largest producer of platinum.

IndustriALL Global Union sends heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those killed, and joins NUM in calling workers to remain united in face of management attempts at divide and rule. IndustriALL condemns the tactics of Lonmin’s local management which is the root cause for this tragedy.  IndustriALL also calls on the Chamber of Mines to address the need for centralised bargaining in the platinum industry to prevent companies from undermining union rights, closing the  space for such unilateral destructive actions for which workers have paid with their lives.

IndustriALL and NUM demand that the families of the deceased must be compensated as if the deceased died on duty and all workers must be paid full salaries for the period of work stoppage, as it was the company that could not provide them with transport and security to work.

“NUM always stands shoulder to shoulder with trade unions throughout the world when a worker is killed under their motto “an injury to one is an injury to all”. Condolences and solidarity messages are being sent from all regions to NUM at this time,” stated IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan.