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NUM: Wage settlement could have saved lives
January 25, 2013, 10:46 am


Striking mine workers armed with machetes, sticks, and spears at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg. [AP]

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) of South Africa has admitted that a settlement of wages outside of national bargaining processes could have prevented the Lonmin mine massacre.

The Farlam commission is probing the deaths of 44 people during an unprotected strike at the mine last year.

NUM health and safety national secretary Erick Gcilitshana was testifying at the commission’s hearings in Rustenburg – he was heard at the Farlam commission on Tuesday.

Geoff Budlender, evidence leader asked him if it was true that lives could have been saved by a pay settlement. “I think so. I can’t be confident in saying that,” said Gcilitshana.

Earlier, he recalled his shock on hearing that a police shooting left 34 workers dead.

“I got [the news of the shooting] from the radio. To me it was a shock and surprise,” Gcilitshana said.

Gcilitshana was the first witness to be called by the union.

He was the chief negotiator during the Lonmin mineworkers’ strike at Marikana in August and a Lonmin employee.

Budlender asked him what his response was on hearing the news: “I don’t recall very clearly. As I remember, we did phone the company to verify.”

He was asked if he took any action following the confirmation, to which he answered: “Not”.

Gcilitshana will be cross-examined by Lonmin lawyer Schalk Burger.

A total of 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead and 78 were wounded when police opened fire while trying to disperse a group gathered on a hill near the mine on 16 August.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were hacked to death.

Wildcat strikes had spread across South Africa’s mining sector as workers reject their conventional union structures.

Lonmin, the world’s third largest platinum producer, gave strikers pay rises of up to 22 per cent in September after 44 people lost their lives.

Source: Agencies