Press Statement, 09 November 2022
NUM to commemorate 40 years of existence on the 4th of December 2022
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) will this year on the 4th of December 2022 commemorates its 40th years of existence under the theme “NUM, The Shield and Spear that Defend Mine, Energy, Construction and Metal Workers. The Weapon Used to Fight Capitalism” at the old Peter Mokaba Stadium at Polokwane in Limpopo.
Established on the 04th December 1982 in Klerksdorp now known as Matlosana, the NUM has throughout the years been the only voice of the voiceless for workers in the mining Sector. Under the leadership of the triad; the adept Cyril Ramaphosa as general secretary, the “field marshal” James Motlatsi as president and the astute political ideologue Elijah Barayi and Deputy president, NUM became the fastest growing union in the world with a membership of well over 300 000 black mineworkers in the 1980’s. NUM became a key stakeholder in the formation of the country’s biggest federation of unions, COSATU in 1985.
The NUM became the fastest growing Union in the world and was able to grow to 14000 members within 12 weeks of its establishment and had four (4) regions i.e. Carletonville, Free State, Klerksdorp and Westonaria and had eight (8) branches established at its first elective National Congress. In less than a year of its formation, the NUM was recognised by the Chamber of Mines as the Union representing categories one (1) to eight (8) mining Industry in August 1983.
The extended its scope of operation to cover, energy particularly Eskom and construction in the early years of 2000.
It further extended its scope to Metal Sector from 2019 and now operates as Mining, Energy, Construction and Metal and allied industries.
The NUM since formation aligned itself with the African National Congress (ANC), in its struggle to overthrow the apartheid government and formally adopted the Freedom Charter as its political guiding in its National Congress in 1987 and adopt Comrade Nelson Mandela as its honorary lifetime President during the height of the apartheid regime and when it was not fashionable to do so.
It played a critical and unique role in that process that ended with the first democratic elections in South African history on 27 April 1994.
It is through its gallant fight that miners who have for many years of service given only a helmet and a pair of boots on their retirement and are today able to receive retirement benefits.
When the NUM was formed 40 years ago it organised in an environment where killings, unlawful arrests, and detentions were rife. The security forces were very brutal to the mineworkers. The mighty NUM confronted the organised power of the mining conglomerates with resilience.
The mining conglomerates together with the apartheid regime waged a brutal war on the mineworkers.The mining companies used the apartheid security to batter the struggle of human rights and dignity.
It was during this difficult time that the NUM confronted the mining conglomerates and the apartheid regime that it possessed the organisational capacity to challenge them head-on.The NUM remained fearless and unshaken in fighting for the living conditions of mineworkers and for them to earn decent salaries.
It is again the NUM that organised the 1987 strike which took 21 historic days (known as “21 DAYS THAT ROCKED THE CHAMBER” with the Congress theme of “MINEWORKERS TAKE CONTROL”
Amongst the demands of the strike was the extension or creation of the Provident Fund for black mineworkers.White mineworkers had retirement funds and black mineworkers had none of these benefits. Between 1987 and 1989 discussion took place between industry stakeholders to remedy the situation.
In 1989, Mineworkers Provident Fund (MPF) was put into place accommodating black mineworkers.Both black and white mineworkers had access to this important retirement facility and it was a victory for the NUM and black mineworkers generally.
The 1987 strike organised by the NUM changed the face of labour relations in South Africa.The NUM demonstrated an unprecedented power in South African trade unionism by holding out for three weeks.
The formation of the MPF came at a huge cost where some workers were dismissed with over 50 000 by Anglo American and others died.
Black mineworkers were denied the rights to be members of any retirement fund while their white counterparts enjoyed this privilege.
The NUM is the one that made sure that mineworkers enjoy this privilege and no other union can claim this great achievement.
The NUM has also been instrumental in negotiating other retirement Funds e.g. Construction Industry Retirement Fund Benefit Fund (CIRBF) which is within the construction industry as well as the Eskom Pension Provident Fund, which is the Energy Sector Fund.
It is again the NUM that was at the forefront to make sure that the Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA) was enacted in 1996.The NUM initiated this after it realised that mine bosses were after profits and they did not care at all about the black mineworkers who were dying underground.
The NUM also fought hard to make sure that mineworkers who died underground due to mining fatalities should be buried in their places of origin preferred by their families. In the past black mineworkers who died due to mine accidents and tribal conflicts were buried in unmarked cemeteries around their places of work or the mines. Today mineworkers are given a dignified burial.
The NUM built the training centre called Elijah Barayi Memorial Training Center (EBMTC) in 1993. This also assisted the union to embark on the process of improving numeracy and literacy levels of its members and shop stewards. The NUM has a second college called EBMTC Artisan Academy which officially opened its doors in June 2019 in Midrand. The growing demand for qualified artisans in the economy has prompted its founding partners to invest in establishing a state-of-the-Art facility with modern machinery and equipment. This training facility is opened to all NUM members and working-class individuals who aspire to improve their career prospects.
The JB Marks Education Trust Fund was founded in 1997 by the NUM and named after its first president of the African Miners Union JB Marks. The Trust is also celebrating its 25th-anniversary. Over the past two decades, JB Marks Education Trust Fund has provided bursaries for members of the NUM and their families; ultimately enabling 1, 717 bursars to graduate with mainstream qualifications (including 24 medical doctors and 4 Pilots). What makes the JB Marks Education Trust Fund particularly important to the general upliftment of the community is its interest in the dependents of the NUM members, of whom many have received educational bursaries.
What makes the JB Marks Education Trust Fund particularly important to the general upliftment of the community is its interest in the dependents of the NUM members, of whom many have received educational bursaries.
As the NUM, we have deliberately and consciously placed ourselves at the forefront of championing the national effort of educating and empowering the dependents of our members. Education of an individual is by definition the education of a society. The NUM through the JB Marks Education Trust Fund will continue to educate its members and their dependents.
The NUM has been instrumental in pushing for the conversion of hostels into family units and single units. The NUM fought very hard to bring back the dignity of black mineworkers because black mineworkers used to stay sixteen in one hostel room. There was no privacy at all.
The NUM again fought very hard for the black mineworkers to be allocated houses so that they could stay with their families. In the mining industry, only white mineworkers were allocated houses to stay with their families.
NUM has also engaged mining companies through the Chamber of mines to sell their housing stock to their employees at a discounted market price.
As a result of this agreement, NUM branches are currently engaging the management at mine level so that they know as to what the number of those houses is and where they are situated.
The NUM and the Royal Bafokeng Platinum have developed a housing strategy that aims to promote home ownership for all its employees in order to create a lasting legacy of sustainable benefits.As part of the overall Employee Home Ownership Scheme, the NUM and the Royal Bafokeng Platinum celebrated the completion of the first phase of the project at a function held on 16 September 2014 at the Waterkloof Hills Estate and handed over the keys to the first of the new homeowners, of the 422 units that have been completed.More than 3000 units are going to be built as part of addressing the housing problem for mineworkers.
The NUM regards itself as a leadership grooming institution hence it has always been willing to avail its leaders to assume important roles within the alliance structures e.g. Cyril Ramaphosa who became ANC Secretary-General 1990 and is the current President of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe who became ANC Secretary-General 1997-2007 and also served as the Deputy President of South Africa, and Gwede Mantashe who was also the Secretary-General of the ANC and currently the sitting Chairperson and the Minister of Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), to mention but a few.
NUM founding General Secretary Cyril Ramaphosa has this to say on why NUM was formed:
"We formed the NUM so that it can be the shield and spear for mineworkers. That is what the NUM was formed for.
So that with the spear it can launch attacks, it can march forward and eliminate all forms of exploitation and discrimination that was levelled against mineworkers.
It became a shield because it was only the NUM that could defend mineworkers and it continues to be the only union in the mining industry that can defend mineworkers.
The NUM became an important weapon against tribalism. Before the NUM was formed, tribalism was promoted, it was encouraged and it was planted throughout the mining industry.
The mining bosses thrived on dividing workers and they divided workers along tribal lines."
The NUM is concerned that racism is still rife in the mining, construction, energy and metal sectors.
Some of our members are still called with derogatory names and that is unacceptable. As the NUM, we are going to fight tooth and nail to make sure these racist elements are removed in the workplace forever.
The NUM will continue to fight for the living wage, and ensure that workers are provided with decent accommodation.
The union will also continue to push for transformation in the workplace and ensure there is an improvement of our member's economic welfare in mining, construction, and energy and metal sectors where it organises..
We will also campaign for full compliance with the Constructions Charter and punitive measures must be undertaken where there is a failure to comply with the companies.
The NUM will continue to campaign against outsourcing, casualization and labour brokering characterising the construction sector. We are also worried about the lack of effective monitoring of health and safety compliance in the construction sector.
The NUM continues to mourn the loss of lives of workers in all the sectors the union is organising in.
We will continue to mourn the victims who lost their lives during the unfortunate Marikana tragedy in 2012.
On August 16 2012, 34 people, mostly striking miners, were shot and killed and 78 people were wounded at a hill near Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg in North West.
In the preceding week, 10 people, including mineworkers, two police officers and two security guards, were brutally killed in the strike-related violence.
The NUM’s call has always been that those victims must also be remembered. Those workers who were at Marikana in August 2012 were affected across trade union allegiance.
We will continue to view the month of August since 2012, as one of the most unfortunate months that ever happened in the history of the union’s existence.
It is unfortunate in the sense that what happened then has been projected and used by any disgruntled individuals who want to launch either their political relevancy at the expense of the plight of the victims.
Instead, the NUM would like to see the immediate implementation of the Social Labour Plans that would directly address the issue of housing and local economic development in and around the Marikana areas.
For more detailed information, please contact:
Daniel Balepile, NUM President, 074 439 9752
Livhuwani Mammburu, NUM National Spokesperson, 083 809 3257
Luphert Chilwane, NUM Media Officer, 083 809 3255
The National Union of Mineworkers
7 Rissik Street.
Cnr Frederick Johannesburg
Tel: 011 377 2111 Cell: 083 809 3257