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

Threats of a total shutdown of SA’s mining industry and other sectors could have pushed the labour registrar to ditch his plans to deregister the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), the union’s elective congress heard on Thursday.

However, labour relations registrar Lehlohonolo Molefe has denied ever being threatened by the union, which is the largest in SA’s platinum industry with more than 200,000 members.

In March, Molefe issued a notice of intention to deregister Amcu, saying the union had violated its own constitution, a move the union described at the time as a political attack aimed at destroying it.

On Wednesday, Amcu general secretary Jeff Mphahlele said his union was “targeted” by the labour registrar because it was a progressive and militant trade union and the biggest in the platinum sector.

Molefe charged that Amcu had not held an elective conference for five years and had effectively ceased to function as a “genuine trade union” as envisaged in the Labour Relations Act (LRA). But on September 1, Molefe ditched plans to deregister the union after a number of written representations from its leadership. 

On Thursday, Joseph Maqhekeni, a former president of the National Council of Trade Unions, told Amcu’s elective conference in Boksburg that when Molefe made known his plans to deregister Amcu, he had called high-ranking officials in the department of labour and employment and told them not to deregister Amcu.

He also revealed that the Amcu leadership told the labour registrar that “if you dare deregister Amcu, the mines and other industries will come to a standstill”.

However, in a text message to Business Day on Thursday, Molefe said he had not been threatened by the Amcu leadership from going ahead with his plan to deregister the organisation. “Not at all, they have made written representations as prescribed by the LRA.” 

In April, after almost five months on strike, Amcu ended its industrial action at Sibanye-Stillwater where it was demanding R1,000 yearly wage increments for the next three years, while the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Solidarity, and the United Association of SA (Uasa) accepted an increase of R750 a year for the next three years for the period July 1 2018 to June 30 2021.

However, Amcu’s strike was viewed as a failure as its leadership later signed the 2018 three-year wage agreement previously signed with the three other unions.

Amcu rose to prominence for leading the strike that led to the Marikana massacre in August 2012. Thirty-four protesting Lonmin mine workers were gunned down by police. Ten people, including police officers, had been killed in the preceding week.