As AMCU, we have now completed our comprehensive mandating process building up to the upcoming wage negotiations on the Platinum Belt. As the majority trade union in Platinum, we are ready!
As a genuine trade union, AMCU remains committed to working with the mandate of our members, in our quest for social justice and economic emancipation.
We are not like some other yellow unions, where leaders make decisions in in the middle of the night without a mandate and conclude deals with managers in boardrooms and restaurants. Our decisions are made at the Mass Meeting, and our members determine what we demand and what we achieve!
We started in May month with a series of Mass Meetings at the various Platinum AMCU Branches. We listened to the challenges faced by workers. We saw their hardship. We took their mandate to form our demands for submission to the bosses.
On 4 June 2019 we conducted our customary Platinum Collective Bargaining Conference at the CSIR in Pretoria. All our leaders from the Platinum Branches were in attendance, as well as our regional and national negotiators and leadership. We invited the renowned economist, Dr Dick Forslund to brief us on the market trends in Platinum, as well as the inflationary attacks on the livelihood of workers.
Dr Forslund’s research confirmed that our demands are realistic and that our signature demand of R12 500 has been eroded by inflation. He worked with a very conservative formula of an average of 4,5% inflation over the past years since 2012. You will remember that our R12 500 demand was born in 2012 in the shadow of the Marikana Massacre.
We are proud to officially announce that AMCU’s new demand for a living wage is R17 000 per month.
We believe that R17 000 is the minimum amount that a worker needs as a basic salary. It is a small price for the hard work and daily risks to life and limb our members face.
After Dr Forslund’s presentation, our Branches engaged and deliberated in order to consolidate their demands to a single AMCU mandate for Platinum.
Earlier this week, from Monday to yesterday, we conducted a series of Central Mass Meetings at all the Platinum mining houses in order to confirm this consolidated mandate. We are now ready to engage with the employers!
Current trends in the Platinum Sector
We are glad to learn that the Platinum Sector in South Africa is making massive profits. However, the in South Africa we have become used to high profits contrasted by a declining wage share of these hyper profits. The rich bosses get richer and the poor workers get poorer!
This is one of the reasons that we have seen a decline in the South African economy of 3,2% in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the last quarter of 2018. AMCU believes in a wage-led economy, where workers earning a living wage can spend their hard-earned money and boost the local economy.
The main problem in our country remains economic inequality which results in poverty. Apart from the so-called “working poor”, who work for slave wages set in place during colonialism and apartheid, almost half of South Africans don’t have a job.
While the official unemployment stands on 27,6%, the biggest problem is that our youth don’t get jobs. Analysts say that 55,5% of youth are unemployed. This is a ticking time-bomb indeed.
AMCU maintains that the only way to address unemployment is to transform our economy. We need to move away from an exploitative economy, where rich multinationals loot our country’s wealth of raw materials. We need to industrialise. We need to beneficiate. We need to manufacture and export! Like many have said, Africa is not poor, she is poorly managed!
Despite the first quarter’s decline in economic growth, it is interesting to note that the Platinum Companies have been comfortably profitable since 2017. This is largely due to the commodity appreciation in the Platinum Group Metals also known as PGM.
Since 2016, the price of rhodium has risen by 300% and the price of palladium by 150%. As at February 2019, rhodium was trading at $2 645 per ounce, palladium at $1 488 per ounce and iridium at a healthy $1 460 per ounce.
The SA Operation PGM basket price in the first quarter of 2019 appreciated from $1 073 per ounce in 2018 to $1 221 per ounce. This is a substantial increase of 13.73%!
Even better, the PGM basket price of the Rand per 4E (Platinum, Palladium, Rhodium and Gold) ounce increased from R12 839 to R17 104 in in the first quarter of 2019. This is a 33.21% increase!
The South African PGM adjusted earnings for the first quarter of 2019 showed a 33.22% increase from R258.3 million in 2018 to R353 million in 2019.
We are really glad that it is going so well with Platinum, and it is high time that the bosses share their hyper profits with the workers who toil every day!
We also clearly remember how Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman bragged, during our Five Month Strike in Gold, that he was making handsome profits in Platinum. Now it is the time to share! Mr Froneman also said that he raised almost R2 billion in order to fight AMCU during the Platinum negotiations. We call on him to rather use this money to improve the lives of his employees who are our members.
AMCU in the Platinum Sector
Since AMCU entered the Platinum Sector, the lives of workers have improved drastically. Workers have felt real change in their lives. Gone are the days of yellow unions who sell out the workers to management! AMCU will fight for social justice and economic emancipation of the working class.
Marikana Massacre. On 16 August 2012, we saw the brutal killing of 34 of our comrades by the State. Capital bought the State to oppose the quest for economic emancipation of the workers. Since the Marikana Massacre, AMCU has spared no expense to defend and support the families of our fallen comrades. We have contributed to funerals and attended in person. We have invested heavily in capacity-building programmes and we have built state-of-the-art houses for the families of the victims.
We have remained committed and our National Office-Bearers have personally attended Shaft Steward Council meetings and attended to members’ issues on a daily basis. We have ensured that we convene regular meetings, conferences and congresses. AMCU became involved in Platinum wages after the Marikana Massacre in 2012, and more specifically in 2013 and 2014 with the Five Month Platinum Strike. Back in 2012, the lowest earning worker at Platinum was earning around R4000 per month. Taken the general inflation-related wage increases as taken by the NUM (averaging 6%), this would have meant that this worker would now only get R5674,08 per month! But, thanks to AMCU, these workers now earn more than our initial target of R12 500 per month. AMCU has brought real change.
The so-called “merger” between Sibanye-Stillwater and Lonmin
On 13 March 2018 Sibanye-Stillwater applied to merge with Lonmin, indicating that it hoped the transaction would be approved by end of May 2018. We have always said that this is not a merger – it is an incorporation. Lonmin is being swallowed by Sibanye! AMCU formally indicated its intention to participate in the merger proceedings on 20 March 2018, after which it attended engagements with the Competition Commission and made submissions in opposition to the merger. The Commission finalized its merger report in September 2018, and the matter was set down for hearing in early October 2018. However, given the sheer size of the record filed by the merging parties (in excess of 160 000 pages) the matter was postponed to 12-14 November 2018. AMCU then presented our arguments before the Tribunal regarding the proposed transaction and the impact of the transaction.
In addition to the conditions proposed by the Commission and merging parties, the Tribunal (after hearing argument from AMCU) included a moratorium on the proposed retrenchments for a period of six months. There were also certain short-term projects that would reduce job losses and may well negate certain losses should the market prove favourable.
The Tribunal Order was given on 21 November 2018 and the Tribunal Judgment was given on 13 December 2018. We appealed and applied to suspend the operation of the merger pending finalisation of the appeal.
We were successful and the appeal was argued on 2 April 2019.
The Appeal Court handed down judgment on 17 May 2019, that the merger will proceed but with the 6-month moratorium on retrenchments being upheld.
This means that AMCU’s opposition managed to delay the merger by more than a year, in fact by 13 months. If one takes the average income of a worker at Lonmin to be R14 000 for around 27 000 workers, this calculates to a total of R4 914 000 000 (almost R5 billion) worth in salaries.
We have fought the good fight.
We have been to the highest court. It has cost us around R3 million with absolutely no support from Government. In fact, government was pro-merger from the start, even though they knew that we will lose thousands of jobs. Thousands of workers could have been gone last year already, but we are all still here!
The merger was implemented from effect of 10 June 2019 and there will now be a handover period between the companies. AMCU will ensure that the rights of our members remain intact during the process.
Assassination of our leaders
Since AMCU’s involvement in the Platinum Sector, we have been under attack. Since 2012 we have been the target of many. The fact of the matter is that our government, the State, has been co-opted by Capital. Very similar to the United Kingdom in the 1980s, big business has declared war on genuine trade unions like AMCU.
Just like former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher did her best to crush the unions, the tripartite alliance is doing its utmost to ensure that the power of labour is weakened.
COSATU and the NUM are the hand-puppets of capitalists in the ANC who hold shares in all the major companies in South Africa.
They will stop at nothing to crush AMCU…
Our leaders have been assassinated, and from the beginning the media and our detractors tried their best to blame AMCU for the violence.
The propaganda against AMCU has been a constant feature since 2012.
However, we pursued the matter and got expert investigators like Paul O’Sullivan to help us catch these criminals. We left no stone unturned. They were caught and sentenced, some to life in prison!
In court the truth came out: The killers were sponsored by NUM and their expensive legal teams were paid by NUM!
The threat of deregistration
Just after we managed to settle the five-month strike at Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold operations, on 23 April 2019 AMCU received a notice from the Registrar of Labour Relations. The notice indicated the Registrar’s intention to cancel our registration as a trade union. We are more convinced than ever that this is a political attack on AMCU for being a genuine trade union.
Still, we are glad to report that, just yesterday, we hand-delivered our written submissions to the Registrar in Pretoria. We tabled our arguments and presented evidence of our compliance with our constitution.
We trust that the Registrar will be convinced by the comprehensive evidence we presented, and that the Department will let us continue with the preparations for our National Congress to be held on 18, 19 and 20 September 2019.
We are looking forward to our deliberations to take our organisation into the next five years and beyond.
In the meantime, AMCU will continue its campaign of social justice and economic emancipation of the working class. We are ready for the Platinum wage negotiations, and we are convinced that we will be successful in improving the lives of our members. AMCU is a genuine trade union and we will remain a genuine trade union.
3 June 2019, Pretoria
– Samkelo Mkhutshwa (38) and Simphiwe Silwane (36) were expressionless when the presiding judge over the case at the Pretoria High Court handed down their sentences this morning. Both men were found guilty of the attempted murder of Marikana Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) office bearers that included branch Chairperson Malibongwe Mdazo and Msindiseni Kwenene. They were also found guilty of being in possession of an illegal firearm and ammunition, while Silwane was also found guilty for the murder of Mveliso Biyela.
Each of the men were sentenced to 25 years for attempted murder, 15 years for the possession of illegal firearms and five years for ammunition. In addition, Silwane was sentenced to life behind bars for the murder of Mveliso Biyela. Both men are from Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape.
During the trial, the court heard that on 22 July 2017 Mkhutshwa and Silwane went to the stadium at Mooinooi in Marikana after they were informed that the branch Chairperson, Mdazo, would be there. When he (Mdazo) was about to leave the stadium after the match he was shot at, while inside his vehicle. The shooting continued even after he got out of the vehicle, but he managed to escape.
In his testimony Mdazo told the court that after the soccer game, he walked to his car where he spoke to a friend. During this time, Mkhutshwa, whom he did not know at the time came over and greeted him.
“I got into my car and adjusted my seat when I heard noises which sounded like crackers. I then realised I was being shot at and I jumped out of the car to see what was going on. I then saw the gunman standing at the door of the car. The man at the door was Mkhutshwa,” Mdazo testified.
Another AMCU member who survived the ordeal is Msindiseni Kwenene who was shot at in September 2017 on his way to work. He managed to escape that attempt but another assailant armed with a handgun was waiting for him and opened fire. He was later joined by a third armed man, but Kwenene also survived the attempt on his life.
Unfortunately, Mveliso Biyela died after being shot while walking home from the Wonderkop hostel on 22 September 2017. He was with his wife and son when his killers opened fire.
The case started out with 13 suspects including National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) member Nkosinathi Mantashe but in October 2018 the state withdrew the charges against five suspects, including Mantashe, leaving the remaining eight suspects to return to the Pretoria High court on 13 May 2019.
On 20 May 2019, the case once again took an unexpected turn when the state Advocate, Annalie Coetzee, withdrew the case against six of the eight suspects stating a lack of evidence to prosecute but they continued the case against Mkhutshwa and Silwane. During the trial, Advocate Coetzee urged the court to remain cognisant of the fact that the accused were hired by begrudged ex-AMCU members to kill members they believed stole the leadership position, while the defence argued that there was no concrete evidence to support these claims especially since the state withdrew the case against the alleged conspirators.
Mkhutshwa and Silwane are believed to have been hired by former AMCU members who walked out during a mass meeting that took place at the Lonmin mine in Rustenburg, subsequently losing their membership and titles.
In her closing statement on Thursday 30 May 2019, Advocate Coetzee said the ballistics forensically linked both the accused to the shooting of Mdazo and Biyela and although the evidence against Mkhutshwa is circumstantial in the shooting of Kwenene it still raises questions that need answers.
While handing down the sentences, Judge Bert Bam stated that Mkhutshwa and Silwane were hired assassins who were driven by greed.
“Accused had no personal motive except greed. They have shown no remorse or regret,” said Judge Bam. Furthermore, the Judge said Silwane did not consider the impact the killing of Biyela would have on his wife and child. “You had no respect for Biyela and his family. Crimes of murder and attempted are rife in our country and people are killed randomly for anything. Mdazo was fortunate to survive the attempt on his life,” he continued.
“Kwenene was also fortunate to survive because you also wanted to kill him. The way this was planned is all the same, the circumstances are the same, they were all premeditated. Mkhutshwa was fortunate for not being found guilty of murder because it is clear that several people were involved in the conspiracy to commit these crimes even though some were removed for lack of evidence. The accused had no personal motive and without any consideration carried out instructions. You showed no mercy to the victims. Therefore, all relevant issues considered, the sentences fit the crimes,” concluded Judge Bert Bam.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) is deeply saddened by the sudden passing away of Judge Anton Steenkamp, who succumbed to a snake bite while on holiday in Zambia.
We wish to pass our deepest condolences to his wife Catherine, family, colleagues and all stakeholders in the labour fraternity. May his soul rest in eternal peace. Judge Steenkamp was a man of integrity who contributed immensely to the South African labour market.
In his role as a labour court judge, he ensured that there was fair administration of justice. Through progressive jurisprudence, South African workers are now protected from arbitrary unfair workplace practices with the introduction of progressive labor laws since the dawn of our constitutional democracy.
The labour court has played a major role in transforming our labour market and Judge Steenkamp contributed immensely towards this cause. His sudden passing away is a great loss to the labour movement as a whole and the Country generally. We wish the family strength in this very sad and difficult time.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union’s (AMCU) Eastern Cape Region held its inaugural Regional Elective Congress on 01 May 2019 in Port Elizabeth.
National Organiser Dumisani Nkalitshana addressed the members before the official opening of the Congress. During his address, Nkalitshana urged members to recruit in the various companies and firms in the Eastern Cape in order to strengthen and grow AMCU in the region. “It is important to recruit because there is power in numbers. There is a lot of work to be done comrades, and I urge you to build trust with members and employers because having professional relationships with employers will create a better working relationship with them,” said Nkalitshana.
He also warned that, while leaders are building relationships with employers, it is important for them to refrain from doing things that will compromise members. “It’s important to build trust and remain trustworthy as a leader because lack of trust creates conflict among the union and its members. As you will be elected, it’s important to learn to approach things positively because when you approach things in a negative way, the outcome will also be negative. As you will be elected today, there will be sessions and workshops that you will be a part of to equip you with the necessary skills to help you execute your daily duties as an AMCU office bearer. Respect AMCU members and approach them in a polite and professional manner,” he added.
General Secretary Jeffrey Mphahlele officially opened the Congress. In his opening, Mphahlele said the purpose of a Regional Elective Congress is to have a regional structure. Before speaking on the issue of the day, Mphahlele spoke about the latest developments in AMCU and clarified some issues relating to the recent alleged deregistration of AMCU as announced by the Labour Relations Registrar. “AMCU is the only union in South Africa that actually cares about addressing issues that affect workers. We have faced many challenges these past few months including the strike at Sibanye-Stillwater and the threat to deregister us, but we remain resolute in our stance to fulfill the mandate we get from our members,” he said.
While addressing delegates, Mphahlele spoke about the importance of knowing and understanding the AMCU constitution and labour laws of the country. “Before the voting starts, it is important for everyone in this room to know our constitution as it is the one that will guide these proceedings. It is important because we must come up with a regional structure by the end of today. We are here to elect people you can task with issues of the region. We are here to elect leaders who are going to take the union to greater heights,” he added.
Mphahlele further explained what the AMCU policy and constitution says regarding electing Regional Leadership. “The purpose of policy in any organisation is to outline how the organisation functions and what is expected from each member. We create policy because we want direction and the policy works in line with the constitution. When we have disagreements, we refer to policy and our constitution. Our election process is guided by the constitution and policy,” he explained.
Before the voting started, a representative from the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) outlined how the voting process will be conducted. EISA presided over the election process and explained the voting and the nomination processes before handing over to the delegates in attendance to nominate their candidates.
The newly elected AMCU Eastern Cape Regional office bearers are:
• Regional Chairperson: Mthetheleli Matiwane
• Regional Deputy Chairperson: Noluvo Hako
• Regional Secretary: Siphamandla Mazinyo
• Deputy Secretary: Lusindiso September
• Chairperson Health and Safety: Wandile Melwa
• Treasurer: Thembani Mlombo
• Chair Education Desk: Masibulele Busani
While addressing members as the newly elected Regional Chairperson, Matiwane thanked the delegates for a smooth voting process and vowed to work hard and grow the union in the province. “I am ready to work hard as the chairperson of the region and I would like to urge everyone here to work together because we can achieve a lot when we work together,” he said.