South African mine union urges calm after member murdered

AFP , Monday 13 May 2013

Four unknown gunned down Union leader Mawethu Steven in the plaintive belt of South Africa after receiving work-related threats, sparking questions over who killed him and why

Protesters sing as they hold weapons outside a South African mine in Marikana (Photo: Reuters)

A South African mining union called for calm on Monday after one of its organisers was shot dead in the country's restive platinum belt over the weekend.

Four unknown men killed Mawethu Steven on Saturday as he was watching football in a tavern in the north of the country, said the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) president Joseph Mathunjwa.

Amid tensions with rival union the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Mathunjwa urged calm.

"We are calling on everyone to calm down. Let peace prevail, no one is to take revenge. Let the police do their work. We are preaching peace," he said.

"We condemn this senseless killing of our members in the strongest terms possible."

Steven was thought to have been involved in mass illegal strikes last year that saw 34 people killed in clashes with police at a Lonmin mine in Marikana in one day.

Steven, known as "Steve," was due to testify to an inquiry into the killings.

Steven received death threats because of his work, said Mathunjwa.

"Lonmin was accusing Steve, saying he was behind the violence, and NUM was also accusing Steve, saying he was behind the violence at Marikana," said Mathunjwa.

Mathunjwa accused NUM of belligerent statements, but did not accuse the union of Steven's murder.

AMCU recently was recognised as majority union at Lonmin and at neighbouring Anglo American Platinum, taking the position from the powerful National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

"They believed the platinum belt joined AMCU because of Steve," he said.

He was a Lonmin employee and involved with the local branch of the powerful National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) until he was dismissed following a dispute in 2011.

Mathunjwa also condemned Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) plans to cut 6,000 jobs announced Friday, saying they had not been part of negotiations.

"The company and government sidelined the union where they came up with 6,000."

"We don't know how they arrived at 6,000," he said.

"Whether its 6,000 or whether it's one, as for AMCU one job lost is one too many."

AMCU represents around 40 percent of Amplats' 60,000 workers, having been recognised as majority union in March.

Mathunjwa condemned company executives who earn millions of dollars, and then lay off workers claiming low platinum prices.

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