Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO
Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO

The mineral resources department has urged unions in the mining sector to engage in a peaceful and tolerant manner following a series of violent incidents in recent weeks that have claimed one life.

At least three people have died and several others were injured following renewed clashes between members of the Association for Mineworkers and Construction (Amcu) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

Members of the two unions have resorted to violence as their rivalry deepened since Amcu replaced Num as the majority union  at a number of mines in the platinum belt in 2012 and some gold operations.

On Monday, the department said peace and stability were critical for “long-term sustainability” of the mining sector in light of the renewed clashes, which emanated from a strike by Amcu members at Sibanye-Stillwater Beatrix mine in Welkom, which has since spilled over to the Driefontein operation.

On Friday mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe met the mine’s bosses to find ways of resolving the protracted strike over wages. The department said it was making attempts to meet organised labour.

In a recent interview with Business Day, Amcu leader Joseph Mathunjwa said while the death at Sibanye was “regrettable”, the union would not call off its strike.

He blamed the violence, which has included shootings, stabbings and beatings at the Beatrix, Kloof and Driefontein gold mines, on Sibanye and its security personnel as a mechanism to seek a court interdict against the protected strike, and to protect production.

Mathunjwa said the company had set rival unions against each other and that security personnel discriminated against Amcu members.

“We are not fighting anybody. It's too early to say we will call off the strike. It's not us at fault,” he said.

NUM, which confirmed one of the slain  mineworkers at Sibanye was its member, also had internal clashes to deal with. Regional leader Ndlela Radebe was stabbed during a mass meeting meant to galvanise NUM members to return to work following a five-week strike against retrenchments at Gold Fields’ South Deep mine in Carletonville. It was not immediately clear who stabbed Radebe. Police are   investigating the incident. 

Sibanye secured an interdict against both unions, ordering them to stop acts of violence, preventing employees from reporting for  work and interfering with the running of the gold mines, CEO Neal Froneman told Business Day.

“The safety of our employees is our primary concern and we are hopeful that the levels of intimidation and violence affecting our operations since the strike began will reduce and we can avoid further tragic incidents,” Froneman said.

NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said the union was concerned about the surge in violent incidents in the sector. The union would support the arrest of individuals who perpetrated the attacks in both operations, even if it was NUM members involved in attacking Radebe at South Deep, he said.

“Whoever is responsible for the attack on Radebe must be arrested and sent to jail. It does not matter whether it’s an NUM member or not. We are not going to protect hooligans and gangsters who attack other members with the intention of killing them. The law must take its course and they must be arrested as soon as possible,” Mammburu said.

However, it was the violence emanating from the Amcu strike that has NUM concerned that an escalation would be inevitable if nothing was done. 

“We are worried that the situation at Beatrix mine is dangerous and we are calling on the minister of police to take the situation seriously,” Radebe said.

This was also the case at Driefontein, where NUM members were intimidated at the surrounding townships where they live, he said.

“Some have been forced to run away from their home,” he said.

With Allan Seccombe

mahlakoanat@businesslive.co.za