A revolution that will bring the platinum mining industry to its knees and cripple SA’s economy is imminent, says Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).
In the past several months, mining houses have threatened to shed thousands of jobs.
Speaking at the rally to commemorate the Marikana massacre in North West, Mathunjwa dared Lonmin bosses present with his ultimatum.
Lonmin plans to retrench 12,500 minewokers by 2020, while Impala Platinum recently announced it was planning to reduce its headcount by 13,000 in the next two years.
Mathunjwa said Amcu would stage a year-long strike to render the mines defunct if they proceeded with the plans.
"We will bring the platinum belt to its knees and nothing will move here… We don’t fear you. "We are waiting for you. In 2014 we were not fully prepared but managed to transport all our members to their homes.
"We will never fail, we paid school fees and bonds during a five-month strike. We’ll give you 12 months with these mines not working," he said.
But Lonmin CEO Ben Magara, who addressed the gathering before Mathunjwa, pleaded poverty, saying the company wanted to improve the lives of the mineworkers and the affected communities but there was no money.
Magara said the company was "avoiding retrenchments".
Amcu staged a five-month strike over wages in the platinum sector in 2014.
The echo of Mathunjwa’s war cries bounced off the rocks that flank the hill where the 34 Lonmin mineworkers were gunned down by the police six years ago. The long faces that had braved the scorching North West sun came alive as Mathunjwa stood up to speak.
The addresses on Thursday mirrored attitudes from six years ago when Mathunjwa told Lonmin that the workers would not get off the hill until the company had committed to increasing salaries to R12,500.
And just like back then, Lonmin, through Magara, said there was no money available, while warning workers about possible retrenchments.
Just like the narrative from the bosses and the unions, little has changed in Marikana since the massacre.
The same dusty gravel roads reach like weathered fingers into the nooks and crannies of the informal settlements.
Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa, just like his predecessor Jacob Zuma, was a no show in the area at the commemoration that remains a highly politicised platform. Opposition political parties expressed their outrage at the government’s failure to act on the Farlam commission of inquiry recommendations.
The inquiry was set up to probe the Marikana massacre.
Ramaphosa will have no other chance to join the community when it remembers the 34 slain mineworkers until after the 2019 national elections.
Speaking to Business Day on the sidelines of the commemoration, a young mineworker said it made no difference whether Ramaphosa came to Marikana as it would not be the "magic wand" they needed to heal.
The trauma of August 16 2012, when the world watched as wounded mineworkers lying in pools of blood gasped for breath and the dead lay still, haunts many workers and community members in the area.