x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Fears of further bloodshed in South Africa

Wage talks in South Africa's mining industry are dominated by two fiercely competitive unions, caught up in a violence-wracked turf war.

Wage talks in South Africa's mining industry are dominated by two fiercely competitive unions, caught up in a violence-wracked turf war.

The first is the once unrivalled National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), affiliated to the Congress of South African Trade Unions that in turn is an alliance partner with the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

The NUM established itself during the 1980s as a formidable opponent of the apartheid government, with the ability to bring tens of thousands of mineworkers onto the streets for demonstrations at a moment's notice.

Some of the most powerful men currently in the government began their careers with the union.

The NUM is being challenged by the upstart Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which has won a large following among mineworkers.

Established in 2001, AMCU has drawn on dissatisfaction among mineworkers with NUM, and the perception that its long dominance has led it to become too cosy with employers, and the government-linked businessmen who increasingly dominate mining

It was the AMCU that led last year's wildcat strikes that brought platinum mining to a standstill, and culminated in 32 workers being gunned down by police, an event broadcast around the world.

Analysts fear that AMCU lacks the experience and sophistication of the NUM, and risks making decisions that could end in further bloodshed.

Although smaller than the NUM, the AMCU dominates the platinum industry and has set its sights on becoming the dominant organisation among gold miners too.

Neither union is likely to compromise much on its wage demands, because to do so will bolster the recruitment abilities of the other.

Mining companies are therefore caught in the middle of a struggle for dominance between the two organisations.

 

business@thenational.ae