VENTURES AFRICA – Two people have been killed as new unrest broke out at Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu mine, fuelled by membership tensions between rival unions.
The company confirmed on Thursday that a dispute erupted between rival unions the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which resulted in a violent disruption during which two people were killed, and a third person was shot in the leg.
While the NUM has traditionally been the largest and dominant trade union for mine workers, it has recently seen a number of its members migrate to the smaller AMCU – fuelling tensions between the two unions, who have launched into a form of rivalry.
It is reported that Thursday’s dispute arose as NUM offices at the Kusasalethu mine – to the west of Johannesburg – were attacked by rival factions, having been denied a formal meeting with NUM representatives. Witnesses estimate that 500 to 1,000 miners turned-up at the mine to participate in the disruption.
“Our offices at the Harmony mine were attacked after organisers from another union showed up there demanding a meeting and were refused,” Lesiba Seshoka of the NUM told Reuters.
Police had to be called to the mine in order to regain control as violence took over, and will remain in situ to ensure renewed disruptions to not erupt.
“Now its quiet. Police are here to monitor the situation,’ police spokeswoman Katlego Mogale told Reuters.
With the last of South Africa’s mining sector strikes having ended only very recently – with Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) finally reached a compromise with striking workers, tempting them back to duties – the industry is still on edge, hoping that new strikes will not break out.
Thursday’s events are thus very unwelcome, and a sign that despite a resumption of output from South Africa’s mines, all is still not stable within the sector.