AFP – South Africa‘s maverick politician Julius Malema on Tuesday fired up mine workers to strike for five days every month as stoppages in the vital sector spread to the gold industry.
Malema urged workers at Gold Fields where 15,000 miners downed tools on Sunday to hold the monthly strikes until mining giants bow to an across-the-board 12,500 rand ($1,526) basic salary demand, a threefold increase.
“If they don’t meet your demand, we are going to strike every month for five days until we reach 12,500 rand,” Malema told a cheering crowd of around 3,000 at a stadium in Carletonville, west of Johannesburg.
“This is a serious revolution, don’t give up!” he said. “You must render the mines ungovernable.”
Expelled earlier this year from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) for ill-discipline, Malema has capitalised on the mining unrest to push his radical views and to take political shots at his enemy President Jacob Zuma.
Known by the nickname “Juju”, he has no formal union or political affiliation, but has all the same gained popularity among the striking workers in recent weeks.
Once a staunch supporter of Zuma before a fallout, Malema has stated he wants to see the head of state removed from the ANC leadership at the forthcoming party elections in December.
The winner of the vote will automatically become the ANC candidate for the 2014 presidential elections and likely to be South Africa‘s next president.
Malema has not stated any presidential ambitions, but some of the Gold Fields strikers held placards written “President Juju” and “100% Juju.”
Demanding the removal of their local union leadership and asking for tax-free bonuses, the Gold Fields workers downed tools at its KDC mine, 70 kilometres west of Johannesburg.
They carried placards on brown cardboard paper with the inscription “12,500 rand” — the same wage demand that has crippled London-listed Lonmin’s platinum mine where a deadly strike has entered its second month with 44 people killed.
Gold Fields said it was examining the workers’ demands as the strike continued on Tuesday.
“We have had a couple of meetings today, and we are giving them (workers) a response in due course, which is likely to be tomorrow,” Gold Fields spokesman Sven Lunsche told AFP.
The Gold Fields stoppage, coming a month after the deadly strike was launched at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine, where police shot dead 34 protesters, is the latest to hit South Africa‘s vital mining sector.
“The struggle for Marikana must go into all the mines – 12,500! There must be a national strike at all the mines,” said Malema, spotting a ANC centenary anniversary shirt and a Che Guevara black beret.
He slammed the leadership of the main National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) accusing them of playing to the whims of the employers while abandoning the workers’ grievances.
“The problem is the leadership who take money from umlungu (whites),” he said.
NUM is the largest single affiliate of Cosatu, the umbrella labour union allied to the ANC.
Cosatu reacted to Malema’s speech with a warning.
“He is playing a dangerous game, exploiting the emotions of angry workers. This can only inflame tensions within the mining industry, flames which he is quite incapable of quenching,” said Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven.
Since the start of the wildcat strike at Lonmin Marikana platinum mine, Malema has been moving from mine to mine inciting workers.