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Lonmin suspends NUM stewards in Amcu sabotage

Jan de Lange | Mon, 03 Jun 2013 09:08
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[] – SHOP stewards from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) have resorted to stealing members from the Association of Mining and Construction Union (Amcu).

Eight of the NUM’s full-time shop stewards have been suspended by Lonmin due to alleged fraud around union membership.

The shop stewards falsified stop orders to make it seem as though Amcu members had left their union and joined, or rejoined, the NUM.

Abey Kgotle, the senior human resources manager at Lonmin, told City Press on Friday that three full-time NUM shop stewards were suspended last week after an initial investigation into complaints involving the submission of fraudulent stop orders in favour of the NUM.

Lonmin subsequently established that about 200 stop orders were falsified in this way and submitted to Lonmin’s human resources department.

In the course of the investigation, another five shop stewards were identified and suspended on Friday.

Full-time shop stewards are employees of the company who do only union work, but receive a salary.

The effect of the fraud would have been to relay membership fees due to Amcu to the NUM, while also helping the flailing Cosatu affiliate regain its representation.

The NUM has until July 15 to dramatically regain members at Lonmin or face the loss of its offices at the mining company’s 12 shafts across Rustenburg, after already not being recognised.

These offices are crucial if even a vestige of the NUM is to survive at the platinum producer and have become the centre of a protracted battle.

The offices have long doubled as the branch offices of the ANC.

Every office of the NUM in South Africa doubles as an ANC office following a 2003 decision taken at the NUM’s 2003 national congress, when ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe was still the union’s general secretary.

Making this deeply entrenched national network of offices available to the ruling party is seen as a major reason for Mantashe’s ascension to the position of general secretary of the ANC itself in 2007.

This also explains why the NUM is clinging to the Lonmin offices for dear life, after not only losing its majority status at most major platinum mines, but being reduced to a minor union player in the industry.

Lonmin workers, the vast majority of whom are now Amcu members, have grown incredibly frustrated at the NUM’s remaining presence.

It was the major reason for the wildcat strike on May 14 and May 15 at Lonmin, along with the apparent assassination of a local Amcu organiser the preceding weekend. The strike ignited the tailspin in the exchange rate of the rand.

In response, Lonmin sought to accelerate the expulsion of the NUM from Lonmin by having the union close up its offices earlier than it strictly needed to.

The NUM successfully challenged that decision in the labour court last week and is now left to chase the initial deadline to regain members by July 15.

The NUM-ANC offices are of particular strategic importance to the ruling party as well because they represent a direct link between the economic hubs of South Africa and the rural areas in Eastern Cape and Kwazulu- Natal, where mine workers are generally recruited.

Amcu’s treasurer, Jimmy Gama, addressed a letter to Lonmin last week alleging that, according to his records, there were 800 Amcu members in whose names false NUM stop orders were submitted.

This alleged fraud comes as Frans Baleni, the general secretary of the NUM, was claiming that mine workers who had abandoned the NUM were already returning “home”.

Amcu represents roughly 74% of the 28,000 employees and 9,000 contractors at Lonmin.

The union has warned that dodgy tactics like those of the suspended NUM shop stewards could lead to new violence at the group’s mines.

The NUM wouldn’t comment on its suspended shop stewards, but its spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said on Friday that the union also has complaints against Lonmin involving the company’s apparent refusal to release an independent third-party audit of union membership.

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