Marikana Miners’ Working Conditions Need Fresh Probe, Vavi Says

The former general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions said a fresh inquiry into the circumstances of miners in Marikana area, where at least 44 people died in violence in 2012, is needed to prevent a repeat of the killings.

“A new commission must be established to look at living and working conditions of miners to prevent a Marikana massacre from happening again,” Zwelinzima Vavi said during a debate about the findings by a commission investigating the event in Johannesburg on Monday. Vavi, an outspoken critic of the ruling African National Congress’s economic policies and alleged corruption under President Jacob Zuma, was expelled from the labor federation in March for gross misconduct.

Zuma on June 25 released a report that recommended Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega’s competence to hold office be investigated after 34 miners were gunned down by police near Lonmin Plc’s Marikana platinum mines on Aug. 16, 2012. The workers had been camping out on a rocky outcrop close to the operations demanding that the company increase their pay to 12,500 rand ($1,020) monthly in a country where about one of every four people is unemployed.

“Until the economic conditions in this country are addressed, there will be another Marikana,” Joseph Mathunjwa, the leader of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which has overtaken the National Union of Mineworkers to become the biggest representative of platinum-industry employees in the country, said at the same event.

Ministers Cleared

At least another 10 people died in violence leading up to the massacre. The report cleared former mining minister Susan Shabangu and ex-police minister Nathi Mthethwa, who continue to serve in Zuma’s cabinet, of any wrongdoing.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was a non-executive director of Lonmin at the time of the violence and chairman of Shanduka Group Ltd., which indirectly held a 9 percent stake in two of Lonmin’s South African units, was also cleared.

Lonmin, the ANC, Phiyega and the Chamber of Mines, which represents producers, had been invited to take part in the debate on the Marikana report hosted by Primedia (Pty) Ltd. but didn’t attend.

Vavi had been at loggerheads with the leadership of Cosatu, an ally of the ANC, since it expelled its biggest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, which refused to support the ruling party in elections last year.

Miners’ grievances with the NUM, a Cosatu affiliate that at the time represented most workers at Lonmin, and the deployment of unskilled management in the police were the cause of the tensions that culminated in the massacre in Marikana, Vavi said.

“The unions had been speaking too much politics and too much alliance and less and less about the workers’ wages and working conditions,” Vavi said. “This is a tragedy and this appointing of people without skills goes to the core of corruption in South Africa.”

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