Johannesburg, South Africa — 04 June 2013 – Eight shop stewards of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) have been suspended for alleged fraud regarding union membership, according to platinum mining giant Lonmin plc.  

Fin24 quotes Lonmin spokesperson Sue Lindsell-Steward as saying that the company has suspended eight employees following investigations into allegations of membership fraud. Three of those suspended are currently in the middle of disciplinary hearings, while the remaining five members face hearings this week,” she added.

The shop stewards allegedly falsified stop orders to make it seem as if members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) had left their union and joined the NUM. The company said it had been established that about 200 stop orders had been falsified in this way and submitted to Lonmin’s human resources department.

The effect of the fraud would have been to relay membership fees due to AMCU to the NUM, while also helping the NUM regain its representation.

The NUM has until July 16 to retain its status as a majority union, or vacate union offices at shaft level. The offices were provided by the company to the dominant union, while other unions were provided with only one central office to service their members.

AMCU ousted the NUM as the majority union after a wildcat strike in Marikana, in the North West province last year, commanding 70% of unskilled workers and machine operators as members. Rivalry between the two unions contributed to the deaths of at least 44 people in Marikana in August last year.

NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said the company had the right to discipline anyone alleged to have committed fraud. “We hope the charges they face are true and not made-up charges.”

He said it was not correct that union leaders had attempted to poach AMCU members. “You cannot cook membership,” said Seshoka.

The union had recruited 800 members, although conditions were not conducive for recruitment at Rustenburg mines.

“You cannot recruit when there is violence and intimidation,” Seshoka added.

Since the wildcat strike in Marikana last year, at least 20 NUM members had been killed, Seshoka claimed.

During a two-day strike in May, AMCU members demanded that the NUM offices be shut down and accused the union of membership fraud.

The strike followed the death of AMCU regional leader Mawethu Steven. He was shot dead at a tavern in Photsaneng on May 11, on the same day twin brothers Andile and Ayanda Menzi, 24, were shot at a shack in Wonderkop. One died on the scene and the other in hospital.

A NUM shop steward was shot dead and another wounded in Wonderkop yesterday.

The killings of union leaders in the area have been linked to rivalry between the two unions.

North West premier Thandi Modise has called on AMCU and the NUM to denounce violence and commit themselves to peaceful coexistence at Lonmin and other mines around Rustenburg.

Source: Fin24. For more information, click here.