The head of the dominant labour union in South Africa’s platinum sector threatened on Friday to bring the country’s economy to a standstill.
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) leader Joseph Mathunjwa told local radio that he was demanding a meeting with President Jacob Zuma and alleged that the Government did not care about violence against his union’s members.
“We will put the economy at a standstill.... We need a meeting in order to talk about these issues at Rustenburg, of the killing of our members,” he told 702 Radio.
A key AMCU organiser in the platinum belt was killed over the weekend, as were two members of the rival National Union of Mineworkers, the once dominant labour group which remains associated with the ruling African National Congress party.
AMCU now has about 70 per cent of the unionised labour force in the sector and has taken a tougher stance in negotiations than NUM, particularly on salary hikes.
NUM has dubbed AMCU officials “vigilantes” as tension between the groups continue to rise.
The threat came as AMCU members staged wildcat strikes this week at platinum mines owned by Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the worlds’ top producer of the precious metal, and Lonmin Plc, the globe’s third-largest producer.
South Africa’s mining sector has been roiled in unrest since the start of last year. In August, wildcat strikes at the Lonmin mine at Marikana, in the heart of the platinum belt, left dozens dead, including 34 striking miners who were shot dead by police.
The Marikana violence was in part stoked by recruitment rivalries between AMCU and NUM.
Shares in some South African mining firms have retreated this week owing to concerns about renewed unrest across the sector.