Num to visit Marikana miners' families

13 February 2013 - 20:32 By Sapa
Image: Antonio Muchave

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) intends visiting the families of Marikana miners killed last year, union president Senzeni Zokwana said on Wednesday.

"I will go visit the families of dead mines after the commission," he told the Farlam commission of inquiry in Rustenburg.

"I am avoiding going to a place and saying something while I am under oath.... We care about the people."

Tshepiso Ramphile, representing families of murdered security guards at the mine, concluded his cross-examination of Zokwana late on Wednesday afternoon.

He said the NUM could have done more to protect miners and to avoid the deaths of 44 people during a violent strike in August.

During Wednesday's proceedings, Zokwana defended the NUM's decision, at the time of the strike, to tell its members to go to work to avoid losing their jobs.

During the cross-examination, he did not dispute calling Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa's office for an additional deployment of police.

He said the reason for a police presence was to ensure law and order, and not to negotiate.

The commission heard that the situation at Marikana had been volatile and that workers had needed protection.

"NUM doesn't have an army to go in when people are violent," Zokwana said.

He said rumours and reports that the NUM was working with the mine had added to the NUM's loss of control of its members.

"All the stories that the NUM was colluding with the employer added to us losing control," Zokwana said.

"When violence was used it was difficult for us to call on shop stewards to return to work.... We did not only lose control, we lost lives."

Ramphile wanted to establish whether the conduct of the NUM, its members and officials was in the best interest of resolving the issues at the mine, and the nature of the NUM's role in the strike violence.

The NUM had done a lot of good for miners, but the commission had been established to find out if weaknesses in the union had led to the deaths of mineworkers, he said.

Ramphile asked Zokwana about the grades used to determine the wages of rockdrill operators.

Zokwana said the NUM was in talks with the Chamber of Mines to negotiate better wages for the rockdrill operators.

"We can deal with the industry. We have been engaging on the issue of grades," he said.

Ramphile responded: "Could it be that the rockdrillers lost confidence?"

Zokwana said that before the union agreed to wage increases it consulted with its members, and rockdrill operators had agreed to the previous increase.

"I understand if rockdrillers were angry about these wages, but there should be ways of dealing with it. Violence is not the way to deal with it," Zokwana said.

The commission is probing the deaths of 44 people during an unprotected strike at Lonmin's Marikana mine.

On August 16, 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 were injured when police opened fire while trying to disperse a group which had gathered on a hill near Lonmin's Platinum mine in Marikana.

Ten people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed near the mine in the preceding week.

Dali Mpofu, representing the miners injured and arrested during the strike, is expected to call his first witness to testify on Thursday.

Mpofu indicated that he would call a miner who was shot and injured on August 11.

Karel Tip, for the NUM, asked to re-examine Zokwana for clarity on one matter on Thursday morning. The commission was adjourned until 9.30am on Thursday.

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