‘Is NUM a caring union?’
National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) president Senzeni Zokwana was on Friday forced to admit the union had not done anything to help the families of its members who had died in the Marikana strike violence last year.
Advocate Nicole Lewis, who represents 33 of the families of the 34 people who were shot and killed by police in Marikana on August 16, argued during Zokwana’s cross examination that the union’s leadership had not attended the funerals of the members and they had not done anything to arrange legal representation for their families in the aftermath of the shooting.
Lewis pointed out that NUM’s rival, Association of Mining and Construction Union, had testified that it had set up a fund for the benefit of the families of all the victims of the strike violence.
In what amounted to the union accepting that it had abandoned its members who had been arrested and injured in the shooting, last week the NUM’s national health and safety chairperson Erick Gcilitshana admitted the union had not made any efforts to assist its jailed members and did not visit the injured in hospital.
This week Zokwana said under cross examination he was not aware if any of the union’s leadership, in their official capacity, had visited the family members of the deceased miners who have been attending the commission since October last year.
Zokwana told the commission on Thursday he had been surprised and scared by the aggressive and threatening attitude of the striking mineworkers and that they had made it clear they did not want the NUM to negotiate on their behalf after they had gone on an unprotected strike in August.
Gcilitshana has testified the union had not visited its members because they had made it clear during the strike that they wanted nothing to do with the union.
Zokwana said he had not attended any of the funerals or memorial services of the union’s members because “the mood that prevailed at the koppie still prevailed at the funerals.”
He said the same people who were leading the strike at the koppie and who had shown aggression towards NUM, were attending very funeral.
“NUM members could have been assaulted,” said Zokwana. “The mood that prevailed at the koppie still prevailed at funerals. The atmosphere could not allow any of the NUM members to attend.”
Zokwana said the widow of one of the NUM shopstewards whose death doesn’t fall under the terms of reference of the commission, had informed him she had stopped attending the commission because she had felt threatened after being questioned by Association of Mining and Construction Union.
She said the woman had told him in a telephonic conversation the incident happened after she had been visited by NUM officials at the hotel where the families of the deceased are accommodated in Rustenburg.
He said he had not told the union’s lawyers about the incident because he had only heard of the matter recently.