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Press Statement, 04 December 2019
NUM COMMEMORATES 37TH YEARS OF EXISTENCE TODAY
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) today commemorates its 37th years of existence. 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 workers in the mining, construction and energy sectors.
Its history began when Cyril Ramaphosa, a young inexperienced legal officer with the Council of Unions of South Africa (CUSA) was assigned a task of forming a black mineworkers union in July 1982. He collected around him a small group of senior black workers from Anglo American Corporation gold mines. Within weeks of starting this task, the National Union of Mineworkers was formed and within months it was recognised by the Chamber of Mines. It held its first congress on the 4th of December 1982. The NUM since formation aligned itself with the African National Congress, in its struggle to overthrow the apartheid government. 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 retirements benefits.
When the NUM was formed 37 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. 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. Amongst other demands of the strike was the extension or creation of the Provident Fund for black workers. 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 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.
NUM was the first union to adopt the Freedom Charter and also adopted 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 is again the NUM that was at the forefront to make sure that the Mine Health and Safety Act 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 die 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 the 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 JB Marks Education Trust Fund was founded in 1997 by the NUM and named after the first president of the African Miners Union and this year, the Trust celebrates its 20th-anniversary milestone. Over the past two decades, JB Marks has provided bursaries for members of the NUM and their families; ultimately enabling 1121 bursars to graduate with mainstream qualifications (including 18 medical doctors).
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.
The JB Marks Education Trust Fund was founded in 1997 by the NUM and named after the first president of the African Miners Union and this year, the Trust celebrates its 23rd anniversary milestone. Over the past two decades, JB Marks has provided bursaries for members of the NUM and their families; ultimately enabling 1121 bursars to graduate with mainstream qualifications (including 18 medical doctors).
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 education of a society
The NUM through the JB Marks Education Trust Fund will continue to educate its members and their dependents.
It was the NUM that negotiated for Kumba Iron Ore Envision Esop for its members who each received R576 045 for their holding of 3 365 units in Kumba’s Envision Esop in 2011, which equated to an after-tax payout of R345 627.
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 use 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 is the number of those houses and where they are situated. The current living out allowance of R2000 in the gold sector which was negotiated by the NUM will help the mineworkers to purchase these houses as a bond.
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 the current incumbent Secretary-General of the ANC Gwede Mantashe, 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 and energy 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 the mining, construction, and energy.
The NUM will continue to vigorously campaign for the full implementation of the Framework Agreement by both Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and the Presidency, push for the withdrawal of mining licences from companies that have failed to comply with the Mining Charter targets. 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.
NUM is extremely worried about possible job losses in the mining, construction and energy industries.
The NUM will continue to fight for its members because they are the most exploited proletarians in the world.
For more information, please contact:
David Sipunzi: NUM General Secretary:
Livhuwani Mammburu: NUM National Spokesperson: 083 809 3257
The National Union of Mineworkers
7 Rissik Street.
Tel: 011 377 2111
Cell: 083 809 3257