Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa. Picture: SOWETAN
Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa. Picture: SOWETAN

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) has sent a letter to companies, its regions and branches, strongly denying that it has done anything to merit its deregistration.

The labour relations registrar, Lehlohonolo Molefe, issued a gazetted notice on Wednesday saying Amcu would be deregistered as a union because it has “ceased to function in terms of its constitution; and the trade union is not a genuine trade union as envisaged in the [Labour Relations Act]”.

Molefe clarified his comments in a statement on the department of labour website on Thursday, saying the union had not held a national congress in 2018 as per its constitution.

According to the registrar office’s records, Amcu held national congresses in 2004, 2007 and 2011, with a special congress in January 2013.

“Since 2015 up to 2018, there have been numerous letters to Amcu requesting the date of their national congress without success”, Molefe said, adding the union kept coming up with excuses.

Amcu then said it would hold a national congress by May 2019 but attacked the registrar for “unusual attention” it was getting from his office before pushing the date of the congress to September 2019.

“Having read the letter received on April 3 2019, and considering the submission by Amcu regarding its national congress, the office of the registrar is not convinced that the trade union will be able to hold its national congress during September 2019,” Molefe said.

Amcu, in a letter dated April 25 and signed by Jeffrey Mphahlele, the union’s general secretary, said: “Without going into the specific merits of the matter, we confirm that the allegations levelled against Amcu are denied and we are taking counsel on how best to oppose the action to be taken. We view this as a clear onslaught on Amcu and our struggle for social justice and economic emancipation. We will spare no resources to defend the rights of Amcu and its members.”

Amcu has 60 days in which to register its written arguments against Molefe’s decision, which commentators have criticised for being vague, with some questioning the timing of the notification.

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa is scheduled to address a media conference on Friday morning to talk about the threatened deregistration.

The union convened an urgent national executive committee meeting on Thursday, to be followed by a central executive committee meeting on Friday ahead of the media conference to discuss the threat, Mphahlele said. “In the meantime, we request co-operation from all stakeholders until the above processes unfold.” 

Amcu’s ascent

Amcu is a powerful union on the platinum mines around Rustenburg where it started becoming an organisation to be reckoned with during the 2012 strikes and labour unrest at the world’s number three platinum miner Lonmin, which quickly spread to other companies in the area.

The violence around the Lonmin labour unrest culminated in the massacre of 34 protesters by police when they opened fire on a crowd near the Marikana operations.

Amcu quickly rose to displace the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) at other platinum mines and called more than 70,000 people out on a five-month strike in early 2014 that cost workers more than R10bn in lost wages, and companies more than R20bn in lost revenue.

It has tried to wrest control of the gold mines from the NUM, but has met with varying success. Amcu called its members out on a wage strike at Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold mines on November 21, only ending the strike on April 17, suffering a humiliating climb down when it signed the same wage agreement that three other unions had signed in November, plus a R4,000 ex gratia payment and a bus ride back to the mines.

Its website puts its membership at about 250,000, but Mathunjwa recently told Business Day that this number was far smaller because of retrenchments and restructuring at platinum and gold mines. He was, however, unable to give the number.​