South Africa’s ruling party accused the union whose members are taking part in the longest mining strike in the country’s history of being linked with “foreign forces” that are attempting to derail the economy.
More than 70,000 members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union have been on strike since Jan. 23, crippling output by the world’s biggest platinum producers. The walkout caused mining production to plunge by the most in 47 years in the first quarter, contributing to the economy’s contraction in the period, the first since a 2009 recession.
“The articulation of AMCU position by white foreign nationals, signaling interest of the foreign forces in the destabilization of our economy,” is a “disturbing development,” Gwede Mantashe, the general secretary of the ruling African National Congress, said yesterday in a statement following a meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee.
The union had also allowed “the direct participation” of the Economic Freedom Fighters in the negotiations, “and thus the collaboration with the foreign forces,” he said. The EFF formed last year by expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema that won 6.4 percent of the vote in last month’s elections, making it the nation’s third-largest party. Dali Mpofu, an advocate representing the AMCU, is a member of the EFF.
The interests of foreign forces led the ANC committee to caution Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi to lead an effort to resolve the strike “with care,” the party said. ANC members attending the meeting questioned the role of the state in workplace disputes when there are “clear rules” on how to deal with these, it said.
Today is the final government-led meeting to resolve the strike, Ramatlhodi said on June 7. Anglo American Platinum Ltd., Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Lonmin Plc have lost 21.7 billion rand ($2.1 billion) of revenue while workers have foregone 9.6 billion rand in wages, the companies said on a joint website today.
Mantashe’s comments are “unfortunate,” Bishop Jo Seoka, a past president of the South African Council of Churches who has been helping the striking miners, said on Johannesburg-based SAfm radio today. “Politicizing the strike isn’t helpful. Mpofu is sitting there in his capacity as a professional person. He has been asked by the workers to facilitate in the process to find a solution.”